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Neighbor broke my waterline and damage occurred to my house

Discussion in 'Easements & Right of Way Law' started by misscyn, Aug 9, 2017.

  1. misscyn

    misscyn Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I inherited a house from my husband that has a shared well with about six houses. I have lived there 28 years. A new neighbor moved in right after my husband died about four years ago. He had a new concrete driveway built soon after moving in. I did not realize it at the time, but it was poured right over my water line.

    My house is situated on the side of a mountain and down a hill. Sometime in July of 2015, I noticed my driveway deteriorating and my house appearing to settle a bit. The front porch had pulled loose. A wrinkle appeared in the stucco next to my front door; two of my basement walls had developed mildew. This was all very alarming, particularly the mildew, and appeared to have happened somewhat suddenly. My handyman had cleaned the basement in just May of that year, and reported nothing unusual.

    I had a water and mold 'specialist' look at it, (who also says he is an engineer) and he told me it was a combination of rain water running down against the house, a small drill hole in a foundation block filling with water, the house settling over time, humidity in the basement due to sealing issues, etc. I corrected all issues that were advised to me. It appeared to help.

    However, I found a small crack in my foundation in the basement below the stucco wrinkle, and some dips in my asphalt driveway earlier this year. I contacted the specialist/engineer and he sent my message to some home services guys who emailed me and offered to come out to look at the problems. I showed them the dips and the foundation crack and the stucco wrinkle, and they told me it was still the rainwater, and I needed a $2000 French drain installed to fix the problem, and they could do it, so I had it done.

    In June the water line broke and blew out two holes in my driveway. I paid to fix the water line, and paid extra so my neighbor's driveway would not be disturbed to be nice to my neighbors. Afterward, however, the plumber who fixed the line said the heavy driveway had cracked the main water line pipe over time, and virtually all of the above problems in his opinion, were due to that. Which means that for several years, every time I used the water in any form, it was leaking out and running against my foundation underground.

    My homeowner's policy, an HO3, specifically says it does not cover underground water damage, sinking patios, or cracks in foundations due to water. I have not filed a claim because I had a major fire in 1999 and another claim in 2014 for a busted septic line and its damage. My shared well agreement says I can't sue my neighbor for damage concerning the well and water line easements barring 'gross negligence' on his part. Complicating all this is the fact that another neighbor confessed to jacking up the well pressure to 80 for years without telling my husband, because he is up the hill and needed it; this made the pressure at my house higher, and although I did install a pressure release valve at the house after he told me, I am sure all that pressure did not help my 20 something year old water line going up the road.

    I feel totally screwed. I am a 54-year-old widow with a disabled adult child. Much of this was happening when I was grieving and in shock and trying to settle my husband's complicated estate. Since he passed I have invested heavily in making improvements to my house and I was vigilant every time I saw a problem. My house has been damaged by the actions of others, and it doesn't look like there's anything I can do about it. Please advise.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2017
  2. hrforme

    hrforme Active Member

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    Honestly I am not seeing any help for you. I just don't see gross negligence (maybe someone else here will see something I am not) based on the opinion of one plumber. Shared wells can cause all sorts of issues and honestly I wouldn't want a house that has one (we have a private well and the same type of setup that you describe with a house built into a hill). We also are looking at drainage issues but I can honestly say it is attributable to us, heavy rains and our lot. I think you are going to have a hard time proving that either action was the direct cause of your issues.

    I am sorry you are also dealing with this.
     
  3. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    It is reasonable to believe that since you did not know the driveway went over your water line when it was put in, neither did your neighbor. However, you might investigate whether any permits were required prior to the construction of the driveway, a process during which any underground lines would likely have been revealed.
    If your neighbor failed to obtain required permits (if any) or otherwise failed to build properly, then maybe there is something you can work with. Maybe.
     
  4. misscyn

    misscyn Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you. I will check into that. I think they are required to search public utilities, not private, but I will find out.

    I'm across the street from this guy and the well house is literally eight feet from his driveway. How did he think the water got across the road? I was busy and stressed and assumed he and his contractor knew what they were doing. My bad.
     
  5. misscyn

    misscyn Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I hear you. I called an engineering firm and they said I need a geo tech to determine what happened and who might be at fault. Sounds expensive. I called the Dept of Insurance and they said filing a claim would be a waste of time. I know one attorney who said I should file the claim and damn the torpedoes, because they might do the foot work at least before denying the claim and canceling me. No real options here in my opinion.
     
  6. misscyn

    misscyn Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Not to mention that when the water line broke and blew the holes in my driveway it also washed out a lot of gravel from underneath the asphalt onto my lawn, and now the rest of the driveway appears to be collapsing for about ten feet and precariously close to my septic tank. This is a hell of a mess and very distressing. I have developed an ulcer and gastritis for the first time in my life in the last six months due to all the home repair issues.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2017
  7. misscyn

    misscyn Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Oh, did I mention my HVAC guy told me that the humidity in my basement (which was due to the leak, it turns out) would be improved if I finished it in? So I put in a very nice in-law apartment because I don't need a man cave to the tune of $50,000. My grad school daughter lives down there now. I thought it would improve my home value. Now it looks like I raided my retirement fund for nothing.

    Just shoot me. I would sell it, but I have to fix it first or I'll get sued my own self.
     
  8. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    No need to take it so hard.

    Anything you may have done inadvertently can also be done intentionally.

    All is not lost.

    You don't have to avoid selling the home.

    You don't have to blame yourself.

    We all do things without giving it the utmost consideration.

    You can now endeavor to fix it.

    You inherited the house.

    What did it cost you, but the $50K?

    No need to answer me with all of your financials, as that is for you consider in private.

    You only need to sell the home for $50K, to break somewhat even, but I'm certain you don't have to take such a hit.

    You can simply think about where you might wish to live and downsize.

    We often think we must keep the 15 bedroom mansion we acquired at age 40, when we become age 60.

    Not true, unless you wish to be crippled by the calculus others use.

    You can determine your own calculus and apply it to your future.

    I still own property in the US, but we live (at least i do) in Belize, where we own property, too.

    One day, whether my wife wishes to move permanently, I'm going to do so.

    We are not tied down by what others wish, unless you allow it to make you a life long child.

    So, sit down ALONE, think about YOUR future.

    Sadly, your beloved husband is deceased.

    Any decision you make today should be made for your best interests.

    Don't beat yourself up for mistakes you made.

    Just consider what is bets for you, so that you can continue to live the gerat life you and your spouse once planned.

    God bless you. ma'am.
     
  9. misscyn

    misscyn Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you. You are very kind and your words are comforting.

    Seventy-five percent of my net worth is tied up in my home. I suppose I'm going to have to suck it up and repair what I can. I am going to ask the neighbor to split the plumber bill and the driveway repair; my patio sinking and stucco and foundation cracks will most likely be up to me, in my opinion.

    It's a beautiful place. My husband built it in his twenties. There are lots of special features he added, with love, over the years. He asked me to stay there as long as I could. He would be so very disappointed if he knew what kind of permanent damage has been done to it. I am ashamed.

    Thank you again.
     
  10. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Don't beat yourself up over things.

    You sound as if you and he had a great life.

    It isn't about the stuff you acquire during your lifetime, its about how you live your life.

    As long as you have your health, you can always get more stuff.

    The greatest value should be placed upon the relationship you and your husband had.

    Don't feel guilty about being unable to keep promises made to someone dying.

    It doesn't matter.

    What matters is that you were there with him right until he drew his last breath.

    Now you live your life, not the life he and you had.

    You do what we all try to do, the best we can.

    God bless you, because I've been where you are many years ago.

    I lost my first wife to lung cancer at age 25.

    I was attending law school, and active duty in the army.

    I had two small boys to raise as a single father.

    I had law school to finish, and my military career.

    It hurt, but I had to go on for my sons.

    About 10 years later I met another wonderful woman.

    We are still married today.

    She had also lost her first husband to brain cancer three years earlier.

    Today we're just doing the best we can, with what the good Lord blesses us.

    What happened to you seems large, but I'm sure compared to the loss of yoru husband, its tiny.

    Hang in there, and do what you think is bets for you.

    God bless and comfort you, talk to Him yourself.
     

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