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I bought a property which at one point in time had a functional garage at the back of the property and a driveway leading to it. Since then the roof has collapsed but the cinder block walls and foundation are good and I want to rebuild it. The problem is that there is a Verizon utility pole, in the middle of my driveway.

The line runs through my property, not along it. The pole sits about 15'. from the border of my property and the neighbors. There is no mention of it in the title report, and while it was depicted in a recent survey I had done, there was no mention of any right of way grant. Whats more, it would appear the pole is only carrying POTS telephone lines to two of my neighbors homes, and both of them have fiber lines running into the front of their homes which are most likely bundled with a digital phone line.

Obviously I wouldn't want to do anything to tick off my neighbors. I plan on talking to them. I don't imagine it will be a problem, who uses POTS telco lines anymore anyway? My question is, what would be my recourse after this? Should I be contacting Verizon or the City?

  • When did you buy the property? Was there not a easement described in the property description and title? – BlueDogRanch Oct 2 '18 at 22:44
  • A week ago. I knew about the pole at the time and read the title report very carefully. No mention of an easement and it is well within my property. – mreff555 Oct 2 '18 at 22:54
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    Check with the title company again to be sure, and then ask the neighbors about the lines. And then ask Verizon. If there is no easement, it may come down to how long the pole has been there. – BlueDogRanch Oct 2 '18 at 23:00
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    If you had a full property survey done, ask the land surveyor about it. Did he find a grant of easement? – mkennedy Oct 3 '18 at 22:09
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The utility company almost always has a statutory right to acquire and condemn easements for telephone lines and very likely had a right to do so when they were put up.

Even if it didn't have a valid unrecorded easement, it is likely in the circumstances that you describe that is has a "prescriptive easement" which arises when property is trespassed upon openly for a sufficient time period, or one of several other kinds of implied easements such as an easement by estoppel (which arises when a structure is built on property with the implied permission of the property owner who does not make a timely objection and the person building the structure relies upon that permission to their detriment in a way that it would be unjust to allow the property owner to revoke that permission later on).

When you buy real property you are bound not just by easements of record, but also by easements whose existence would have been apparent upon a physical inspection of the property. Often there is also an express exclusion from title insurance for unrecorded utility easements in the fine print of a title policy.

A telephone pole on the property is an easement whose existence would have been apparent upon a physical inspection of the property, so you are bound by this easement if it existed when you purchased the property, even if there was no recorded document noting that it existed.

You should contact Verizon to determine whether they would be willing to vacate their utility easement that blocks your old driveway, and if so, on what terms they would be willing to do so (often they would be willing to take down an obsolete telephone pole, but only at your expense).

If a new survey of the physical property was done and did not note the physical pole on the property, you may also have a claim against the surveyor for the cost of remedying the problem that his survey should have revealed (although there may be contractual limitations of liability either at all, or in the amount of damages allowed if there is liability). But, often only an "improvement location certificate" to show that the main structure on the property is within the boundary lines is done, and then noting the telephone pole would have been beyond the scope of the surveyor's engagement.

  • The pole was depicted in the survey but so were trees and a playground. There was nothing describing it or mentioning an easement. – mreff555 Oct 4 '18 at 22:36
  • @mreff555 Then the surveyor has no liability. If there is a pole on the survey, that is implied notice to you of the existence of an easement and makes the easement binding upon you even if it is not recorded, and even if it is not described as such by the surveyor (whose job is not to interpret the legal meaning of what he observes and records). – ohwilleke Oct 4 '18 at 22:37

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