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Situation: We have a new construction site / home on a small farm. A gas line has been installed across my property, to service the house. I have NO utility easements filed except for an original electric easement on the border. I installed my own electrical buried cable to service the house from a bordering transformer and meter. I let a different utility company install a gas line (because it seemed easier than DIY-ing with a meter at the street). I did sign an installation agreement with this written in the fine print:

"CONDITIONS TO INSTALLATION. 1.1... payment stuff. 2.2 Right-of-Way. Customer shall provide the right-of-way required for the installation of the Company's service facilities. Customer shall grant or obtain for the Company an easement along the route of the line extension in a form satisfactory to the Company."

Question Since I never filed an easement and the utility company never asked (none exists), is it within my rights to deny them access to the property or force them to be more courteous? I completely understand they can shut down the service because technically this could be a breach of our contract for service. However, situations have come up recently (not just meter reading) where trespassing and damage to the property occurred. A security gate is soon to be installed. There is a perimeter fence which will be beefed up as well. They will be physically forced to ask permission (for anything) and I want to know ahead of time, what kind of trouble I can get in or what is typical where they can no longer physically access the property without being courteous.

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I don't have a general answer. But for the specific case of a suspected gas leak, most states give the fire department or other emergency agencies authority to enter any property to investigate any suspected fire or anything that is suspected to create a risk of explosion. When making entry, they are allowed to force open doors, windows, gates, etc.

Most states also authorize the fire chief or similar official to order anyone present to assist, so if the utility were called to the scene, the fire chief could order the utility personnel to enter the property and search for a leak.

I have been a volunteer firefighter in the past. I remember one occasion where we broke into a bank in order to put out a small fire.

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  • That is a good point. However, that is an interesting topic in my state specifically (Montana). I can find no such provision in our state laws regarding fire departments. I CAN find such information in city ordinances, but not at the state level. Perhaps I'm just missing. I have lots of volunteer and non-volunteer fire department friends including a chief in a nearby city. I should ask them. I'm not super concerned about the fire department honestly. I trust them and am installing a Knox box on the gate (they can come in at any time). Generally, they don't want to invade privacy anyway.
    – maplemale
    Dec 1 '20 at 18:43
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The agreement specified that:

Customer shall grant or obtain for the Company an easement along the route of the line extension in a form satisfactory to the Company.

This obligation remains even if it has not been insisted upon by the company to date. If access is denied the company could demand a proper easement. If this is not provided, the customer would be in breech of contract. Whether to company would simply be allowed to terminate service, or would be entitled to damages as well, would depend on the the provisions of the contract, and by default on the law of the state where the property is located.

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