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When your waste pipes go through your neighbour's property...

Discussion in 'Repairs & Maintenance' started by vtt, 14th Aug, 2016.

  1. vtt

    vtt Well-Known Member

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    Hi all,

    We live in an old terrace house in the inner west of Sydney. The waste water pipe for four of the terrace homes cross my rear garden and join in my neighbour's garden which leads to the main sewer outlet. There is one line that we own that runs separately which joins to a junction in my neighbour's yard which drains our waste water from our bathroom, laundry and kitchen.

    Yesterday (Saturday) we had a plumber out who brought his (expensive!) camera and we have now learnt that the pipe that we own has collapsed, which explains why our drains in the bathroom and laundry are overflowing. Apparently the toilet is on a separate line which is fine.

    So.. we can't use the shower, bathroom basin, kitchen sink or laundry until we get the pipe fixed. To do this they need to dig up a portion of the neighbour's concrete yard to access the pipe, repair it and then re-line the pipe (which is apparently damaged from tree roots - this tree belongs to another neighbour!)

    The neighbouring property owner which has the pipes in their yard rents the property and despite calling the real estate agent multiple times yesterday, we cannot get ahold of them to ask permission to access their yard on Monday morning for these emergency repairs. We will of course pay for the repairs and make good any damage done to their concrete yard. There is no easement in place for the pipework (nor for any of the pipes running through each of the yards).

    My questions after all that are..
    1. Can the neighbour owner refuse us access given that it is an emergency?
    2. If we receive no response at all, what should we do?

    Thank you
    vtt

    PS. Anyone thinking of buying an old house all I can say is EASEMENTS and PARTY WALL AGREEMENTS --> make sure you have them! (we don't!)
     
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  2. Biz

    Biz Well-Known Member

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    Hey Vtt, I went through exactly the same thing (there is a thread on it somewhere) I had to reline the pipe at my cost because the neighbour was a psycho abusive bitch who was living there rent free. It was her grand fathers house who was ready to drop dead and she had no interest in fixing the pipes. Damage was being caused by trees in her property.

    Is the pipe completely gone or is there a chance it can be relined? If that can be done you don't need access. Ideally it is better to replace the pipe though. Also is it an option to reroute the pipes so you can connect via your property rather than rely on the neighbour? Might cost a bit more but at least then you are master of your domain.
     
  3. bob shovel

    bob shovel Well-Known Member

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    Have you got some drawings?

    Easements, in this case only refers to the sewer main - sydney water pipe not necessarily an easement. The others are private sewer that connect to the main they are not easements and back in the day went where they liked. Part of the fun of an old house!
    Can you just connect into one of the others as you have a number of pipes to choose from?

    Did you get any plans from dial before you dig andor fair trading? The plumber might have got them or given you a sketch?

    Did you talk to the tenant? You should atleast let them know as they are affected too and might have info for you regarding pm or what the LL is like.

    Why can't you do the digging on your side or run it another way? They'll sting you for relining (~1000/m) so look at alternatives that may be more digging but could be cheaper. ... Get more than one quote (Sunday's and emergency work makes it tricky )
     
  4. vtt

    vtt Well-Known Member

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    Thank you @Biz and @bob shovel

    There is a roughly 500mm length of pipe that has completely collapsed which is in the neighbour's yard, the rest of the pipe is intact, only a small part of it is actually in our yard as the plumbing is located near the boundary. The plumber is going to repair the collapsed part of pipe and reline the whole pipe that belongs to us (it's not long, only about 3-4m).

    We also thought about connecting to the other line (which our other neighbours use) but the plumber said that pipe is a wreck and has also collapsed in parts (tree roots again) so to do that could end up costing us more as then we would need to share the cost of repair for that pipe as well which is much longer as it passes through 4 properties. The other option we asked about was bypassing the neighbours entirely and just putting a line through our own backyard to the main sewer line which runs in the laneway to the rear of our property. We can do that but it costs about $20K which is about 3 times the cost of our relining option.

    We have a map of the sewer lines which we received when we bought the house but it's clearly out of date as when the plumber put the camera in he found all sorts of additional pipes that weren't marked on the diagram. He is going to do the dial before you dig research to make sure there's no other surprises.

    OH the JOY of old houses!! (Still, we love them!)

    Edit: Haven't spoken to the tenant yet, we will do that today to let them know. We wanted to let the owner know first but seems we can't get ahold of them.
     
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  5. wylie

    wylie Moderator Staff Member

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    If you reline the collapsed part of pipe (3-4 metres) will that mean never a problem again? If not, and if there is any chance of you having to continue to put your hand in your pocket each time something blocks up, then I'd pay the $20k if it meant you will NEVER ever have to worry about something out of your control and not on your property again... especially if you will be staying there for a long time.

    When you add up the cost to fix the crushed pipe, reline, dig up neighbour's concrete and patch it, that all adds up.

    If you did connect your own house directly, what happens to the others in the "line" or would the plumber have to remove your pipes and patch where they connected to the main line?

    Sorry if I have this all wrong but I cannot picture this situation. I just know that we were on a combine sewer and decided to run direct to the mains rather than have to ever make arrangements with the neighbours or decide who pays.
     
  6. Biz

    Biz Well-Known Member

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    I would agree with Wylie, especially if it was for my ppor and I intended to stay there for a long time. Generally relining is gauranteed for 20 years, guarantee is only worth something if the company who did it is still around though...
     
  7. bob shovel

    bob shovel Well-Known Member

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    You can get the dial before you dig too. It's free
    has the plumber got the sewer plans for the neighbour's? You need the full picture.

    Sorry I can't picture what's going on. Can he just dig up the 4m? Under concete? ?

    Also get the info of the neighbour's pipes in your yard cause if their pipes have problems plumbers will be digging your yard. Get as much info as you can
     
  8. vtt

    vtt Well-Known Member

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    @wylie there is a 25 year warranty on the relining of the pipes so we won't have to worry about it for another 25 years.

    Here's a super dodgy sketch I made in Paint (I am no graphic artist!) that shows how it all works. If we disconnected ourselves and capped off the end of the pipe it would affect no one else - this would be my preferred option but it is a lot more expensive. It is around $6-$8K to do the dig up, repair of pipe, reline and repair of concrete to the neighbour. It's around $20K to put a line straight to the sewer (maybe more, depends how deep they have to dig). Plumber said he would still need to access the neighbouring property to remove the pipework and cap it at the junction.

    To give you an idea, from boundary to boundary it's around 3.7m in width for each property and from back of the house to the boundary to the street (top of diagram) it's around 9m.

    We purchased this property as a rental, are living in it at present and renovating it and will likely return it to a rental again at some point and/or sell it to repeat process somewhere else :)

    vtt
     

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  9. Biz

    Biz Well-Known Member

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    If all else fails just do your business in a bucket and throw it in the back alley like the olden days. :cool:
     
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  10. wylie

    wylie Moderator Staff Member

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    Would it be worth trying to get all four houses to tip into the repair costs, on the understanding that should another pipe collapse, you will again all tip in?

    I'd be really peeved if something on my neighbour's property cost me money to fix (and actually, this has happened here with an old storm water pipe from an uphill neighbour that just runs nowhere but the water ends up in our yard and we've spent heaps on extra drainage to fix it). But I guess getting four owners to agree is next to impossible, and one will sell and the whole negotiation starts again.
     
  11. vtt

    vtt Well-Known Member

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    Ironically the toilet is just fine - it's on a seperate line that goes straight to the sewer - flash back to old days of out houses, there was previously one in our back yard which is not there anymore.

    Unfortunately we can't shower or wash our hands in the toilet. We we can, but there may be consequences.
     
  12. vtt

    vtt Well-Known Member

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    Apparently one of the neighbours tried to get all of the owners to do this about two years ago (just prior to us purchasing the property) and no one was interested. I guess until they start having raw sewerage leaking into their bathroom and/or kitchen there isn't enough motivation to do it. According to our plumber that D-Day is not far away for them based on the state of the pipework.

    If we were staying here long term then we would definitely take the circa $20K option and ultimately we would probably try and work something out with all of our neighbours to make life easier for all of us. It's a bit tricky since 2 out of the 4 are rentals, they don't want to spend any money at all (one of whom is our neighbour to the right of the diagram who is a MAJOR PITA).

    We still haven't heard back from the neighbour as to whether they are even going to give us access to do the repairs.
     
  13. bob shovel

    bob shovel Well-Known Member

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    Can you get the dial before you dig. There's a chance yours may be the only "dodgey one" and that line that runs across is the syd water main which you should be connected into
     
  14. bob shovel

    bob shovel Well-Known Member

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    Why can't plumby connect to that?
     
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  15. vtt

    vtt Well-Known Member

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    Yes that's happening tomorrow before all the work starts so we should know a bit more then (assuming the neighbour allows us access!)
     
  16. vtt

    vtt Well-Known Member

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    He couldn't find where the line is, we have no access points in our yard at all - from what he could determine the toilet is on one line and the other parts of the bathroom/kitchen/laundry are on another. The toilet is unaffected by the blockage which is why he thinks the toilet line is separate from the other areas. It could very well be that the toilet is connected to that dodgy line that is shared by all of the neighbours!

    If he could find the line and it is in good condtion then we would definitely connect to that for sure.
     
  17. bob shovel

    bob shovel Well-Known Member

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    You can jump on the dial before dig site now. It's free
     
  18. bob shovel

    bob shovel Well-Known Member

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    Ideally I'd you can it would be good to connect to the out house line then just cap it in your block.
    See dodgey sketch
    Box is out house
    Blob is where to cap 2016-08-14 10.33.36.png
     
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  19. vtt

    vtt Well-Known Member

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    Yes that would be preferable, the location of the outhouse (or where it used to be) is close to the boundary near the main sewer line which runs in the street. We don't know what those pipes are like in terms of condition and given that the outhouse was so close to the boundary (about 1.5m in from rear boundary) it probably won't be much difference in cost to just running the pipe straight to the sewer line - which would be even better, but will still cost $20K.

    Have done the dial before you dig requests, so far the only one I'm missing is the information re water pipes :)

    The tenant next door now knows we need to access their rear yard tomorrow but are trying to get us to delay start for a few days because they have a dog who usually hangs out in their rear yard. Meanwhile we have no access to our shower, basin and kitchen sink. ARGH.

    Rough Sketch of Water.jpg
     
  20. wylie

    wylie Moderator Staff Member

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    Is this sketch done by bob shovel the option that would cost $20k?

    I'd still go that way as long as when your neighbours' find their toilets backing up they cannot come to you for money to help sort their crap out.

    I sounds like it would cost slightly more than twice the cheaper fix, but it is added to the cost base of the house and if you ever have to pay capital gains tax after it becomes a rental, that at least is the silver lining.