NSW Property Rights - Who Pays for Shared Sewer Line?

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SewerConfusion

Active Member
10 July 2017
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I am a property owner in NSW, and have a shared sewer line and boundary trap with a neighbour. There is a section of this sewer line which only my sewage flows, before connecting to the shared line. The sewer line under discussion is entirely on their property.

The neighbour has elected to take a quote for replacing the boundary trap and sewer pipe, accepted the quote, and begun work.

After work had begun, they contacted me and another neighbour to request that we share 3 ways in the costs.

My questions are as follows:

1) I have received advice that anything on the owner's land is their own legal property, and their responsibility. This includes that section of the sewer line coming from my property which is unshared.

Can anyone offer insight whether this statement is accurate?

2) Does the neighbour have the legal right to cut off my access to the sydney water mains sewer by capping my sewer pipe at their end, if we cannot reach an agreement which they are satisfied with?

3) Considering they have taken a quote and begun work without consulting any other parties, do they have any legal recourse to recoup these costs if a cost sharing arrangement cannot be reached?

Essentially, I wish to know my property rights, and my legal responsibilities.

I have the intention to make a financial contribution, but need to know my rights and responsibilities in order to have an informed conversation about finances.
 

Rod

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27 May 2014
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Are there any easements or covenants covering the sewerage line?

It is possible they can recover costs if sewerage is backing up and overflowing on their property and they needed to make urgent repairs but there is no information about the nature of any existing agreements/easements/covenants.
 

SewerConfusion

Active Member
10 July 2017
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31
Thanks for the reply.

Are there any easements or covenants covering the sewerage line?

It is possible they can recover costs if sewerage is backing up and overflowing on their property and they needed to make urgent repairs but there is no information about the nature of any existing agreements/easements/covenants.

There are no formal easements listed on the title. I believe there is an implied easement due to common usage, under common law. I am interested in having this view confirmed or disconfirmed.

To my knowledge the repairs were not urgent, there was no sewage backing up or overflowing. Rather, the neighbour's shower was not emptying, they discovered a stormwater issue, and decided to attend proactively to the sewer to minimise costs and maximise benefit of conducting the stormwater dig.

If the repairs to the sewer system were not urgent, and not conducted with consultation or agreement between neighbours, would that mean the owner is personally liable for said proctive maintenance?

My understanding is that if the repairs were not urgent, have been undertaken in excess of minimal costs, and without consultation with other relevant parties on the sole action of the neighbour, they are liable to bear these costs entirely, and a court may uphold this. I am interested in having this view confirmed or disconfirmed.
 

Rod

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I will get back to you later today/tonight with more detail.

Just a quick FYI - shower backing up is the sewer line, not storm water and would be urgent.
 

Rod

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You probably have an implied easement and the other property owner cannot just cut off your line because you refuse to pay.

If you can't reach an agreement on cost sharing the other owner can take you to court.

Due to the apparent urgent nature of the works they are not obliged to seek quotes and get approval from the neighbours before commencing work. They have an obligation to limit their damages and overflowing sewerage inside a house can lead to greater damages if not remediated asap.

As long as they didn't cause the damage to the sewerage line that caused the backup (eg tree roots from a tree on their property) they would be entitled to some kind of cost sharing.

And keep in mind they are the ones that have had to put up with the majority of the inconvenience, likely through no direct fault of theirs.
 

SewerConfusion

Active Member
10 July 2017
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Due to the apparent urgent nature...
As long as they didn't cause the damage to the sewerage line that caused the backup (eg tree roots from a tree on their property) they would be entitled to some kind of cost sharing.
.

It's not clear that the issue was urgent. Even if there was a urgent need to address part of the sewer line, I have trouble believing that the only remedy was to spend 20K on replacing the entire length of the sewer system.

They did have a couple of large hedges directly above the boundary trap. I have a few photos of an apparently damaged section of pipe, after the hedges above were removed, and a whole bunch of digging took place.

I think it's entirely reasonable that the hedges and digging are partially responsible for the damage.

In carrying out the works, the neighbour has destroyed evidence, and precluded any other party from getting an independent opinion regarding how much of the line needs replacing.

These are the primary issues with the way the neighbour has gone about handling the situation.
 

Rod

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Whew, $20K is alot. It seems unlikely a temporary fix could not be done and then discussions had on a permanent fix.

You may have some cause for complaint. Recommend you get a report from the plumber/business that dug up and fixed the sewerage line and decide what to do after the report has been received.
 

SewerConfusion

Active Member
10 July 2017
5
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31
You may have some cause for complaint. Recommend you get a report from the plumber/business that dug up and fixed the sewerage line and decide what to do after the report has been received.

Indeed - I'll be asking for a breakdown of all costs, and evidence that each component of the work was so urgent it precluded any consultation with neighbours.

If we end up on court, it will be the neighbour taking me, and the onus of proof will be on them.
Also, from my reading, they must provide me with all evidence upon which they rely, before we enter mediation or arrive in court.