Good fences do not make good neighbors...

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by esaul, Nov 1, 2006.

  1. esaul

    esaul New Member

    Nov 1, 2006
    I live in a townhouse community where there exists a 12 foot long fence in the rear yard dividing the individual townhouses. I received a letter from the association stating that i need to repair the fence since it was rotted. I replaced the fence along the property line 2 months ago. My neighbor approached me this morning with a $2300 bill in his hand asking me to pay for damages to his propoerty - here is what happened.

    Apparently his water main connection to the house began leaking in the past couple of weeks (this takes place in the rear yard for some odd reason). He paid a plumber to come out and fix it and according to the plumber, the main line (which was a flexible pipe) crossed our property line and then went back into his yard. Our frost level is 30" below the surface and i would think this line would be at least 6" below this per code. The holes i dug for the fence were only about 30" deep at the most and directly along the property line. As i was digging, i did not notice a plumbing problem at all. I would think that if i did hit his water line, there would be some obvious outcome at the time. Nothing - the fence building went very smooth. My neighbor told me the plumber said it appeared the line had a gash in it caused by something sharp.

    The thing i am most upset about is why the heck his plumbing is going anywhere near our property line? i should have the right to build a fence there and not have to worry about the neighbor's plumbing being in my way ESPECIALLY if the fence was already there and i simply repaired it.

    In my opinion, his plumbing was not built to meet code and it should not be my responsiblility to pay for it when i had the right to rebuild that fence (in fact i was ordered to rebuild the fence per the association) in the exact same location. Am i being asked to pay for something i shouldnt have to, or am i just unfortunate and have to fork out the dough. Please advise...
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2006
  2. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Sep 1, 2004
    Yakima WA
    It is apparent to me that there are legal questions that can not be answered on this forum. Your townhouse community very likely has rules that must be taken into account. I suggest you take this matter to an attorney immediately. Don't bother to talk to your neighbor, he's obviously not interested in resolving this or he'd have come to you when the problem first arose. I would note that if this repair was as simple as you describe, the charge is grossly out of line. Repairing a PVC or poly pipe is extremely simple and requires nothing more than digging, cutting out the broken piece, and splicing in a repair section.
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  4. Master Plumber Mark

    Master Plumber Mark Master Plumber

    Feb 6, 2005
    Sensitivity trainer.. plumber of mens souls
    indianapolis indiana - land of the free, home of
    this smells fishey

    Did you get the utilities marked?????

    can you see there they did make repairs ??

    Perhaps you should have called and had all the utilities marked before
    you started digging.... that is the only real error I can see here

    If you hit their water line it was only a innocent mistake....

    But the neighbor should have had the common courtesy

    to confront you about this problem when he suspected troubles..

    you dont come up a neighbor and hand him a bill for 2300

    out of the blue and expect him to pay for it.......

    (not in these parts ---anyway)

    If their was really a problem along that fence, they should

    have at least had the courtesy to alert you to the situation

    while or before the repairs were being made to his water service.....

    you should at least been asked to SEE the work while it was
    being done and now you should at least be handed some pictures,
    a damaged pipe or been given the option of replaceing or
    repairing that PVC pipe........

    so now somewhere along that fence row you have some new
    evidence of digging????

    and somewhere out there is a piece of "knicked pipe" that they claim is worth $2300.....

    I certanly would not pay it without
    some sort of concrete evidence of your guilt.....

    for all you know the plumber is this guys brother-in -law.

    I personally would not hand that fellow one red cent .....
    if for no other reason

    the absolutely stupid and assine way he has handled the
    whole situation......expecting you just to take him at his word......

    my best advice ..... and its a totally free service ......

    why dont you call and get the utilities re-marked just for fun and see what happens...

    and then make them prove it all in court....

    I dont get the feeling that this neighbor was ever any good in the first
    place , so I would not worrl too much about makeing him mad....
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2006
  5. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    Since it was a common fence, was your neighbor not responsible for paying for his half of replacing the fence? Hand him a bill for $2,300 and call it even.

  6. esaul

    esaul New Member

    Nov 1, 2006
    The neighbor showed me no evidence of the break - i am not sure if he has any or if the plumber still has it. i definitley have my home owner's insurance company looking into the matter and i can bet they want some proof before they fork out any money.

    I am just confused as to why i never saw any proof of hitting the line while i dug the holes for the fence. I would imagine that water would be gushing out of the line and filling up my holes. Nothing like that happened. Could i have disrupted the line enough to cause damage? I used a post hole digger and kept the hole very narrow.
  7. Pewterpower

    Pewterpower New Member

    Jun 25, 2006
    It took 2 months for this "nicked" pipe to actually start leaking?
    If you did it with a post hole digger, then the leak would have sprung up in the post hole, right? I think you would have noticed if someone took down a chunk of fence in order to dig up a line.
    I agree, have the utilities come out and mark the lines and then tell dipshiit to move his lines, or you'll sue him. :D
  8. Master Plumber Mark

    Master Plumber Mark Master Plumber

    Feb 6, 2005
    Sensitivity trainer.. plumber of mens souls
    indianapolis indiana - land of the free, home of
    who blinks first

    your neighbor just wants to see if you are a big
    enough--- chump--sap- wimp--stooge-- or whatever term
    you wish to describe yourself....

    to foot the bill.......

    as I mentioned before, if someone claims I damaged

    his car, home, yard, boat or whatever he better show me

    rock solid proof BEFORE he hands me a trumped up bill.....

    tell him it weill be a cold day in hell
    before you fall for this line of baloney
  9. bronsonb

    bronsonb New Member

    Dec 8, 2004
    Instructional Designer and Project Manager for IBM
    Smyrna, GA
    Utility marking

    In all of the cities I've lived in so far, when they mark utilities, they mark gas, electric, and cable from the street to the house, but the water main is only marked from the street to the meter location, and the line from the meter to the house is your best guess.

    It could be the meter is outside of the yard altogether, so even if you'd had it marked, it might not have been any help anyway. Not that it matters at this point, but as the other posters have said, I'd get the utilities marked just to see what shows up.

    Good luck. I'll be interested to hear how this one falls out.
  10. Dunbar Plumbing

    Dunbar Plumbing Master Plumber

    Apr 18, 2005
    Service Plumber, Outdoor Temperature Relief Owner
    Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati Area

    answer the questions that have been asked of you on this thread. You're not giving enough info.
  11. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Aug 31, 2004
    Cave Creek, Arizona

    The utility locating companies only find the lines up to the meters, and the only way they find plastic lines is by connecting to a "trace" wire buried with it. That water line is after the meter and does not have such a wire, so it would have been impossible to locate ahead of time. You do need a lawyer because there appears to be an encroachment issue with his pipe that requires a legal decision, unless the pipe was actually on his property, and your fence encroached on his property.
  12. esaul

    esaul New Member

    Nov 1, 2006
    Replies to questions

    To answer as many of the questions as i can (thanks, "Rugged"):

    I did not have the underground utilities marked (i know, i know, i should have done this) but it seemed clear to me based on the location of his city connection and his house connection (i have the exact same house he does) that the line would not be near the fence. When i dug the holes, there was no water seeping into them. It took almost two months for the leak in his yard to start which was in the middle of his yard and NOT at the fence.

    Also, his yard is all dug up and put back now. All the vegetation is gone and it is just smoothed out dirt - just like a construction zone. It appears they dug up along his side of the fence but it could just be dirt piled there. At this point, there is no way to tell what was dug up and where. The nieghbor did not tell me he was having the people come out that day to fix it, nor do i think he took pictures or kept any evidence. It's odd how he just told me what they found without any proof.

    I hope i answered the questions...
  13. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    Don't hire a lawyer until he sues you, don't pay him anything, don't acknowledge that you dug without getting utilities located.

    Isn't 30" deep for a post hole?

  14. esaul

    esaul New Member

    Nov 1, 2006
    post holes

    30" deep is where the frost line starts in my region. They recommend 30" minimum for all foundations or the soil around the footings will freeze and possibly lift out the footings over time.ld think the main water line should be well below this frost line in order to keep the line from freezing.

    I dont plan on hiring a lawyer until he sues me - which i have a feeling he might. My insurance company wont find me at fault since he has no evidence which might lead him to taking a last resort by taking me to court.

    I'll keep you all posted as to how this turns out.

    By the way, my wife said she saw the spray paint from the utilities locator the morning they fixed his yard and said there was a big blue straight arrow painted where the water line went from his house to the city connection. She said the line was about 5 feet from the fence. So even if i did have them spray the lines for me, it would not have done any good since the sprayed line was not accurate. Man, i wish she took a picture of it...
  15. Master Plumber Mark

    Master Plumber Mark Master Plumber

    Feb 6, 2005
    Sensitivity trainer.. plumber of mens souls
    indianapolis indiana - land of the free, home of
    politely tell him to pound rocks...

    I would ask this fellow what the big secret was????

    the very second this fellow claims he found the
    problem he should have halted all digging work

    and called you to come home from work if necessary
    to see what had transpired....

    exactly what was he keeping his mouth shut for????

    even if thsi fellow is %100 right about what happened

    he is expecting you to just take his word.....

    and has handled this situation in a very un-professional way..

    even his cousin who probably did the digging should have known better.......

    He does not deserve one red cent handed to him

    again ...politely tell him to go pound rocks...
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2006
  16. toolaholic

    toolaholic General Contractor Carpenter

    Jul 16, 2005
    Repairing and remodeling homes
    Marin Co. Ca.
    any good lawer would say,"nice try,don't pay it"

    This is a bluff! He has to prove you damaged his plumbing! Don't respond
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