Do sewer man hole covers have to be disclosed on a survey?

16 Replies

I recently purchased a plot of land and built a house on it.  This was the last piece of land in a neighborhood and had sat for a while. 

Apparently partnof the reason is there is a manhole cover for the sewer mainline in the easement. The seller had it covered up by a ton of trees and brush so there was no way to see it. 

As a result of this discovery, I’ve had to spend about another $15,000 building a retaining wall and have about 20 less feet of property to work with as a result. 

I have 3 main issues I’d like some BP experts’ thoughts on:

1) Seller never disclosed this sewer main or the manhole cover. It wasn’t noted on the Sellers Dosclosure. I may not have purchased this land and built this house if I had known

2) the survey doesn’t have it listed. I had to pay for a survey. Does the survey company have an obligation to document this?

3) the hole builder told me they had to build a retaining wall splitting my back yard in half. This was not something I wanted. They have me the option to level the back yard and bring UP the sewer main or build a retaining wall about 2 feet from the manhole cover for the sewer. I preferred the retaining wall. They then trenched out about half the back yard and started lying forms for the wall more than 20 feet from the sewer main. I emailed and called them saying they said it would be 2 feet from the main and this impacts my ability to put in a pool. 24 hours went by without a response and in record time they built out the retaining wall 20 feet from where they said they would. They clearly did this on purpose to get it “done” so I’d have no recourse. 

The person that sold the land readily paid a few $1,000 to help offset the cost but nowhere near what it cost. This was very odd which makes me think they did it not just to be nice but because they are hiding something or trying not to get sued   

I’m trying to understand what recourse I may have before I get a lawyer involved. I have a hidden major issue in the land, a bad survey I think and a builder that built and entire wall in the middle of my yard without my authorization and wants $15,000

Thank you for any thoughts!

Ugh!!!!

No one, other than you or the contractor, is responsible for the wall location problem.

Most surveys do indicate easements recorded in the public records.  It is Not I. The surveyor’s scope of work to start clearing all the ground cover to look for hidden items.

Was the easement shown on your survey?  

Originally posted by @Wayne Brooks :

No one, other than you or the contractor, is responsible for the wall location problem.

Most surveys do indicate easements recorded in the public records.  It is Not I. The surveyor’s scope of work to start clearing all the ground cover to look for hidden items.

Was the easement shown on your survey?  

 Exactly. The contractor wellthe homebuilder built It without my authorization and did it super fast to try to keep Me From changing what they were doing 

Hopefully the contract with the person who built the retaining wall specified where it was to go.  As soon as you saw it was in the wrong location, they should have stopped work.  I'm not sure why you didn't phone them to stop as it should have got a more immediate response.  Tell the contractor they are responsible for building it where you agreed to and until it is completed as per the original agreement, payment won't be made.

Why did you need a retaining wall around the man hole cover to begin with?

Hidden manholes or anything hidden under ground is beyond the normal scope of a boundary survey. I am assuming you ordered a boundary survey. When we have a client who needs underground, we get a GPR (ground penetrating radar) scan. Is the manhole part of a public sewer line or is this a private system? Is the land part of a platted subdivision in a municipal jurisdiction? Usually, if there is a public utility line, this would be disclosed to you during the permitting process. Is there no recorded easement for this line? Sounds like the seller may have known this thing was there as was ready to offload it. 

Clint

One more question. Did you get a title policy/title search on this lot? Its easmemt description should have been in there if it is recorded. FYI, we were part of storm water pipe upgrade project. During our field work it was discovered that there are 2 houses with 2 48" storm pipes running under their homes. These are 250000 homes. The pipes have been there for over 40 years. The plats didn't show them, nor did the deeds or plans at the City. Apparently the installers saved some money by not cutting down a bunch of large oak trees. Point is sometimes, there's just no way of knowing.

Clint

Originally posted by @Theresa Harris :

Hopefully the contract with the person who built the retaining wall specified where it was to go.  As soon as you saw it was in the wrong location, they should have stopped work.  I'm not sure why you didn't phone them to stop as it should have got a more immediate response.  Tell the contractor they are responsible for building it where you agreed to and until it is completed as per the original agreement, payment won't be made.

Why did you need a retaining wall around the man hole cover to begin with?

I did phone them. No answer o response. I did email them. No answer. No response (until after it was done and they put it upIn a day)

 Having a job I have to be at, it seems anything short of laying down on the property like Tieneman Square could have prevented them building it. 

Now I’m looking at legal options and destroying the wall and moving it at their expense. 

Originally posted by @Clint Shelley :

One more question. Did you get a title policy/title search on this lot? Its easmemt description should have been in there if it is recorded. FYI, we were part of storm water pipe upgrade project. During our field work it was discovered that there are 2 houses with 2 48" storm pipes running under their homes. These are 250000 homes. The pipes have been there for over 40 years. The plats didn't show them, nor did the deeds or plans at the City. Apparently the installers saved some money by not cutting down a bunch of large oak trees. Point is sometimes, there's just no way of knowing.

Clint

EXACTLY if this is an legal recorded easement it will be in the preliminary title report or title commitment whatever they are called in the jurisdiction.. this is one thing I see that people get stuck on .. when they just trust closing attorneys or title companys to say ya title is fine..  YOU as the buyer SHOULD Always get a copy of the title commitment or prelim as we call them read them in detail .. if it calls out an easement then you ask the title company to send you a copy of the easement

Surveyors can describe out the easement if asked to..  but its up to us as the buyer to read and approve title commitment prelim out in our area they wont close the deal unless you sign that your read and approve the title commitment/ prelim.

this is public record..  our sellers discloures in our area do ask if you know of any easements so seller should disclose IF they know.. but if they never read the title commitment then they may not know. 

Bottom line never take a verbal from any closer that title is fine always insist on getting a copy of the title commitment and read and understand it..  when there are easements I fire back with I want a LEGaBLE copy.. half the time they send you stuff you cant read.. it may require them sending someone to the court house to find the original LOL  

Originally posted by @Wayne Brooks :

@Steve S. So, is there a recorded easement?  If so, it is likely 15-29’ wide and you are not allowed to build anything within it. 

 Yes there is a recorded easement. And I understand there can be nothing built in it. The bottom line is they told me where they could build it and then put it in a different spot without my approval and multiple attempts via voice call and email for them to cease and desist 

@Steve S. Doesn’t sound like you’d be allowed to build your wall 2’ away from the manhole, how far are limits of the easement from the manhole in the direction you need the retaining wall?  I assume they need a permit or approved site plan for the retaining wall?

Originally posted by @Wayne Brooks :

@Steve S. So, is there a recorded easement?  If so, it is likely 15-29’ wide and you are not allowed to build anything within it. 

exactly when I do this on my projects easements for sewer (unless laws of physics dictate otherwise) we put it down the lot line and in our jusirdiction they tend to be 10 to 15 feet wide half on each side we can put a fence and landscaping in but the buyers know that if the city needs to work on the line that its going to get ripped up..  No perminate structures in the right away.. So I can see why the retaining wall was built where they built it.. U cant put it within a few feet of the manhole if they had to replace it they could not get to it with equipment and the wall would have to be taken out.

this needed to be caught prior to closing on the lot.. the title commitment would show the easement and the buyer should have read that and understood it.. seems like that was not the case.  

Originally posted by @Steve S. :
Originally posted by @Theresa Harris:

Hopefully the contract with the person who built the retaining wall specified where it was to go.  As soon as you saw it was in the wrong location, they should have stopped work.  I'm not sure why you didn't phone them to stop as it should have got a more immediate response.  Tell the contractor they are responsible for building it where you agreed to and until it is completed as per the original agreement, payment won't be made.

Why did you need a retaining wall around the man hole cover to begin with?

I did phone them. No answer o response. I did email them. No answer. No response (until after it was done and they put it upIn a day)

 Having a job I have to be at, it seems anything short of laying down on the property like Tieneman Square could have prevented them building it. 

Now I’m looking at legal options and destroying the wall and moving it at their expense. 

Sorry I just read that you emailed.  You did your part to tell them, so it is on them.  I hope it gets sorted quickly. 

Originally posted by @Jay Hinrichs :
Originally posted by @Wayne Brooks:

@Steve S. So, is there a recorded easement?  If so, it is likely 15-29’ wide and you are not allowed to build anything within it. 

exactly when I do this on my projects easements for sewer (unless laws of physics dictate otherwise) we put it down the lot line and in our jusirdiction they tend to be 10 to 15 feet wide half on each side we can put a fence and landscaping in but the buyers know that if the city needs to work on the line that its going to get ripped up..  No perminate structures in the right away.. So I can see why the retaining wall was built where they built it.. U cant put it within a few feet of the manhole if they had to replace it they could not get to it with equipment and the wall would have to be taken out.

this needed to be caught prior to closing on the lot.. the title commitment would show the easement and the buyer should have read that and understood it.. seems like that was not the case.  

 I’m the buyer and I can guarantee the documents were read word for word but we’re of no help in this situation as no one except I suspect the seller knew of the manhole cover

They felt so bad about not saying anything to

Le they gave me $7,000 to offset some of the cost 2 years after buying the lot 

The manhole cover would not necessarily be disclosed on the survey, but if researched properly, the easement would.

So, if the easement is on the title commitment and the survey, there is (imo) no recourse against either the seller or the surveyor. The claim would be against the fool who built a wall in the easement area.