Waste Water Woes

13 Replies

Hi everyone, I've got a new and interesting construction puzzle that I am trying to figure out.  I'm hoping that one of you experts out there might have some insight on this one as I have been staring at it too long.

I've got a project I am building that was fully permitted by the City.  However when we went to go get our sewer line hooked up (which is implied by the permit), it turns out that it goes through the southern half of my lot (subdivided) which is owner by another party.  We dug up the back half of the lot looking for it but haven't been able to find it.  Now I can dig new one, but I will need an easement from my neighbor to do this.  We've offered him some cash but he isn't cooperating at this point.

My other obvious option is a service extension request which will dig up the street and install a new sewer line just for my house.  This is about $30,000 and 3 months of time to do.  I want to avoid that if I can of course.

If I can go through the southern lot, it will cost me just a few grand and about 2-3 weeks to tap into the sewer line on the other side of the house to the south.

The city will reject any solution that crosses a lot line to my east or west.

Right now I am trying to offer more cash to the southern lot owner to get an easement to see if he can be motivated with some cash.  His main objection is keeping government entities off his property.  So I'm not sure what it going on, but he is very anti-state.

I'm also hiring a line locating service to see if they can find the old sewer line that I could not from digging a 40 foot long (entire length of the property) by 5 foot deep trench along the southern half of the lot.

I can't do a septic tank or drainage field because it is too small of a lot (3700 sqft).

At this point I'm coming up with all sorts of crazy ideas like putting a pipe through the airspace of the southern lot.  (That's a joke, it would look horrible, but hell it might work with a pump)

Does anyone have experience motivating neighbors to grant easements?  My reaction here is to think paint point + incentive, but cash and a promise to use private contractors isn't getting me anywhere.

If I can find the old sewer line, it might just work, but we haven't found that yet.


Around here you can go to the city and they have the sewer line locations on computer that would help you pin point it. I think getting the line locator out there is another good option because they can tell you the depth of the line too. 

I wouldn't be surprised if the old line was just a little bit deeper than what you had dug down to.


Thank you for the feedback.  We did check with the city and they show a sewer line that goes to the southern half of the lot.  We think the way the previous owner got waste water was with a non-recorded agreement to connect through the southern lot owner.  That agreement is no longer enforceable and the City wants to upgrade their records so that everything is fully recorded.

I have hired the line detection service and am hopeful.  If it's an iron pipe it's probably still in tact.  I'll let you know what we find.  I am optimistic.

@John Blackman  It's probably going to come down to trying to pay the neighbor a sum less than what it will cost you to dig a new one. However; having one specific for your house, though expensive, will eliminate any hassles with an obviously anti development neighbor. 

We have a legal, recorded easement with the property we bought in San Clemente. It was specifically created by the seller of the land we purchased back when he owned all the land. he wanted access to the back of the lot when developing. The new property owner of the adjacent lot has decided we should 'give' him the easement, and has put up a chain across the easement, and started a suit against us. It's cost us $20,000 thus far defending it, the City, utilities, and title company have sided with us, but the property owner won't relent. it's crazy. I don't know why people are so ridiculous. 

Good luck! 


I'm sorry to hear about your predicament.  I certainly hope we don't have to go the legal route.  That is almost always more expensive.  Your insights are helpful as always.  I'll let you know what we 'dig up.'

I take you are still under litigation with the neighbor.  Do you know what his pain point is?  Does he just feel entitled to it?  Does he know that will prevent your home from having utilities?  It boggles my mind that a neighbor wouldn't want you to be able to have utilities to your house.  I think most folks just think developers are somehow out to damage you because of a few bad apples or the ones that get in the news.

Good luck with your neighbor.

I have invested in this project with John Blackman and would welcome any other creative work-arounds to this situation.

We had also looked at septic but believe the lot size is too small.

I am sure there are other out-of-the-box (or even obvious) solutions that we just have not yet considered.

Thanks in advance

We haven't.  We are still trying to get the neighboring lot owner to cooperate.  Even cash doesn't seem to be working.  Before long we may have to go through a Service Extension Request at which point we may pursue litigation against the City of Austin as well.

@John Blackman  

Where does the City water and sewer department want the line to run?   

We've been in a similar predicament - though with an existing building which required a new sewer line.   The City wanted us to run the line to run under the property behind and connect to the main on the other street (rather than digging-up a busy boulevard).   

The neighbour was not cooperative.  After a few attempts to negotiate the easement, we convinced the City to get involved and they basically forced the easement though.   Any chance you might get the local municipality to encourage some cooperation?

The waste water lines run down every other street.  The line services the north and south side so you only need one line for every other one.  Unfortunately we are on the side of a lot that doesn't have a sewer line, so we need to go through the south half of our lot which is our neighbor.  So the city would run a new line down our street just to service us.

Oh and if anyone tapped into it in the future, we would not be eligible for any cost recovery.  It would now be a public line at our expense.

@John Blackman  Just a thought in case you haven't already done so. Skip the DAC on this one and go to the actual COA Water building at 9th and IH35. I've found some really, really, helpful folks in there.

Thanks @Lynn Currie  we are talking to the head of waste water over on 10th St.  Our attorney has been communicating with them to se the proper tone.  If we get the neighbor's easement, it would be so much easier.  If we can't it may end up in a legal dispute.

After months of both legal wrangling and game theory exercises we have this matter resolved.  We ended up obtaining a private easement from the neighbor.  Later he said he "changed his mind" and we had to threaten to tear the fence down with off duty police officers present to get him to comply.  Never a dull moment!

The tap was dug today and with any luck we'll have the line run in the coming few days.  Hopefully the house will hit the market in June.  This is the last little piece along with some punch items to get it ready for market.  

To anyone in Austin....NEVER trust that the city utility maps are accurate or that the city platted things properly.   The city is not to be trusted and can always impress you with their lack of competence.  

The good news is that we should pull in a lot of dough on the sale of the property.  All is well that ends well!

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