If you are a cable subscriber who has recently received a letter from the cable company about coming to your property and digging up your yard, chances are they can dig without permission.
Cable companies can come onto private property for installation purposes as long as they have permit rights. This means that if there is a utility easement right on your property, then the company can legally enter with or without your permission. However, if there is no utility easement right on your property, then the company cannot enter your property without permission. Doing so will be considered trespassing by the law.
There are very few homes that don’t have a utility easement right. If yours is one of them, then your cable company won’t be bothering you. But if your home does have easement rights, then here’s everything you need to know about them!
What Are the Utility Easement Rights?
A utility easement is a legal agreement that grants permission for public utilities to build and maintain gas, electricity, telephone lines, and other infrastructure.
Utility easements are created by an agreement between two parties — the property owner and the company that wants to install poles and wires. The process for establishing these rights may vary depending on the state laws.
For instance, in some states, implementation of a new utility line straight across or part-way across a private property will require the acquisition of permanent right-of-way by means of purchase from lots owners. This is only applicable to portions that lie within 150 feet straight-line rights extended from the location. Another requirement for this implementation is that the municipality must have a population greater than 50,000.
Is There No Way Around the Utility Easement Rights?
If the home you bought includes an easement, there is little you can do but accept it. The cable company has a legal right to work on power lines, phone lines, and other utilities with or without your permission.
The only exception to this rule is if the cable company digging up your yard is causing inconveniences that are considered illegal.
For instance, let’s say that your property is the only area through which someone can enter another street. In such a case, by digging up your yard, the cable company would be blocking a route. This is considered illegal and they can get sued if someone files a complaint against them. There are a few other scenarios like this one, but they too are rare.
How Does an Easement Affect Your Home Plans?
Do you plan to modify your yard? Then you need to learn whether your property has utility easement rights.
Why? This is best explained with an example. Let’s say you want to build a deck over a certain area of your yard or any other part of your property that contains belongings of your cable company or any other utility company for that matter. If you damage any of their belongings, you will be legally liable. The company can and most likely will sue you for damages.
Will the Cable Company Be Held Responsible for Any Damages Caused?
Under the law, cable providers are responsible for any damages caused to your property while they are digging your yard. This is because they are accessing your property without consent to plant their cable lines underground. Therefore, they are liable for causing any injury to you or damaging something of yours if it wasn’t done carefully enough.
So if a cable company enters your property without permission and starts digging your yard, at least you won’t have to worry about any damage that may be done during the process.
What Should I Do If the Cable Company Damages My Property?
The first thing you should do is contact the cable company and ask them to pay you for the damage done to your property. Most companies will oblige your request and pay your right away.
However, in case your cable company refuses or hesitates to pay what they owe you, there are two ways you can claim your money.
1. Contact Your State Agency
First, get in touch with the state agency that is responsible for handling all public utilities in your area. You can find their contact by simply searching the “.gov” website of the state you’re currently living in.
Once you’ve found their contact info, give them a call and find out where and how you can file a complaint against your cable company for damaging your property. These complaints are usually sorted pretty quickly and you will get paid the money you’re owed in no time.
That being said, one thing we want to mention here is that state agencies are typically very busy. So it’s best to do a follow-up on your first call. However, if they still don’t help you out for any reason, move on to the second step.
2. File a Lawsuit Against Your Cable Company
Since you didn’t ask the cable company to dig up your yard, they are the ones responsible for any damage caused. You have the legal right to sue them. If you win the case, they will not only have to pay you the money they owe you but likely a hefty fine as well.
It’s normal to be upset about someone digging holes in your property without your permission. But unless the cable company has no easement or right-of-way, there’s nothing you can do to stop them. So it’s best to just let them do their work.
However, if they cause any damages while digging up your yard, it’s their legal responsibility to get those damages fixed. In case they don’t, you have the right to sue them in court.