Water line replacement with an easement

Have a 20 space park in a very, very small town in a very rural region. Purchased the park from original owner who built in early 90s. When we purchased the park the water comes through a private water line that the owner put in that is connected to the City main. The private water line runs some 1200 feet through his property from the City main to our park. When we purchased the park we had an 20’ wide easement drawn over the water line on his property from the main to the park.

The town has received a grant to install meters throughout the community. We will have one master meter installed at the City main to measure and bill our water to the park. Ok… all is cool so far.

Here is the rub. In the course of all this the park’s prior owner who sold to us (good ol’ boy who was the mayor at the time and somewhat of a bully) never had the water line from the main permitted or inspected. He just went to the three person City council, said he was putting in a MHP and hooked his own water up. These conversations are in the City Hall minutes but low and behold… there are no permits.

Now 25 years later the City, under new professionalism/leadership while working with the Feds on this water meter grant has implied that the 1200 private water line is not to code, never been permitted and ‘may need to be replaced’. Gulp… and I am not drinking water…

My questions are…
With an easement do I personally own the private water line that the prior owner put in and runs through his property? The water line was never addressed in closing- I never dreamed it would not have been permitted. I live in Western Washington (the liberal side) where you need a permit and a tax to walk your dog. Park is in much more rural Eastern Washington.

If I do own it does the prior owner have any responsibility for never permitting the line? Will he be held accountable.

Tried to do some research on easements… but had a hard time narrowing down the topic.

Any insights would be appreciated.

If it wasn’t permitted then why did the city allow a meter to be installed? Was this easement documented prior to closing - is it deeded or undocumented (e.g. was it on the survey)?

Regardless if you own the line or not you have the most to lose if someone cuts it off or won’t give you access to fix it if needed. I would get it deeded on the Seller’s adjacent land if it’s not already, and then ask how the city knows it needs to be replaced and consult your own experts to see if this is a reasonable ask.

Get independent quotes to replace the line - it might be as simple as a ditch witch 5 feet next to the existing line and then tying into one of the laterals. Worst case you may find that sub-metering on your own is more cost effective.

Thanks for the reply Jhutson. I am learning as I go here but let me try to elaborate.

I guess you would have to understand the town… not so much now as what it must have been like 25 years ago. Park owner was mayor, 250 residents, very very rural. Town ran by what current City Administrator (wonderful person) calls good ol boys. He just did it… and never permitted or had inspected.

Private water lines are allowed from the City mains and the meter will be where the private line connects to the main.

When we purchased the park we acquired and easement over the water line and had it surveyed and deeded in the closing docs.

We had planned to wait and see on the sub-metering of the homes to evaluate the costs against what we are currently covering.

In meeting with the City yesterday it appears they will not ‘force’ a new private water line on us (whomever is responsible for that- me or the prior owner). So at least the options of replacement are back at our discretion.


In most ‘commercial’ real estate contracts the rule is ‘buyer beware’. If you miss something, though beans. Now, that said… if you asked something and the truth was omitted, well you might have a loophole.
If I were you- I might go back tot he contact and see if there was a place to disclose any improvements done without permits. I would look back at the documents and make sue there was not something that came your way that said the owner was not sure if the water line was permitted… I might contact an attorney because if the old owner hid a material defect, you might have a case.

Thanks Jim. I appreciate your advice. I will reread the contract and see if there are any stipulations as you discussed. We knew it was a private line… the idea that it had never been permitted or inspected got under our radar. I really appreciate your help.