Homeowners Have Rights During Utility Construction

March 19, 2009
OPA 051/09

News Highlights  

  • Utility companies must have a valid easement to work on property.
  • Residents should review homeowner’s documents and land records, and consult trained property rights professionals.
  • The Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Branch also is available to mediate disputes between homeowners and utility companies.

More Information 

What should homeowners do if a contractor or subcontractor arrives at their property unexpectedly and begins digging in the yard? Often times, utility companies dig to install new cable or work on gas, electric and other lines, but they must have a valid easement to perform the work. An easement is a legal document granted from the property owner to another party for a specific use of a portion of the owner’s land.

In some instances, homeowners are not aware that the work will be performed or whether the utility company has legal authority to begin construction. Some common questions include:

  • Whose property is the easement on?
  • What is the scope of the easement?
  • Is the easement current or has it expired?
  • What are the boundaries of the easement?
  • What obligations does the utility company have to repair a yard after the easement work is completed?

If homeowners experience these or other issues, they should start by checking their homeowner’s documents and deed to determine exactly what was approved at the time of purchase. Deeds can be obtained from the Fairfax Circuit Court Land Records Division. Land records information is available online.

Often times, it may be necessary to contact legal counsel and/or a title examiner to review all of the relevant documents to determine the property rights implicated by any easements. 

Residents also may contact the Consumer Affairs Branch of the Fairfax County Department of Cable Communications and Consumer Protection for advice or file a complaint online. Consumer Affairs can offer assistance to county residents by serving as an intermediary between a homeowner and a utility company.

For more information, contact Consumer Affairs at 703-222-8435, TTY 711.


Get News. Get Information. Get Fairfax County.Contact: Merni Fitzgerald, Director, Office of Public Affairs
703-324-3189, TTY 711, Media Pager: 703-324-NEWS (6397)
To request this information in an alternate format, call 703-324-3187, TTY 711

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