Tree lawn, sidewalk buffer, curb strip, nature strip, planting strip, etc. question

The grassy area between a street and a sidewalk, or between a curb and a sidewalk. Whatever you call it, does it belong to the property owner or the city?

My kitchen drain is blocked, and apparently the drain goes from the house, under the front lawn, under the sidewalk, under the tree lawn, and to a sewer pipe. A section of the pipe under the tree lawn has collapsed and needs to be replaced. This will cost a couple of thousand dollars. Am I responsible for this, or is the city?

It probably changes from one community to the next, but is there a general answer? And I know you’re not my lawyer.

Just within my city, it varies from place to place as to whether the right-of-way is technically owned by the city or is part of the adjacent property.

Knowing whether you own that property or not won’t answer your question about who is responsible for the repair. You may be required to pay for repair all the way to the street sewer line, even if it’s city property.

in plenty of places the city owns it and you are required to maintain it.

Yeah it’s not really about the land it’s about the pipe.

In some additions/subdivisions, the lot lines extend to the centerline of the street; there are public easements for the street and sidewalk (if present). This makes it clear as to who is responsible for leaf/snow clearance.

Even if the city or county owns the strip, when it comes to utilities, it is almost always up to the lot owner to establish and maintain his connection to the common trunk - pipe or wire.

In the case of water or electricity, you are generally responsible for everything from the meter into the house. The utility owns the meters; you own what is connected.

Sewer - it it yours up to the actual sewer line.

Why would this cost “several thousand” dollars? Dig a hole and either replace field tiles or install a chunk of pipe with no-hub connectors.

I’d find someone to dig the hole, and then a plumber once the pipe is fully exposed and the broken stuff removed.

Notice there is a bit of work between the hole being dug and the site being ready for the plumber - either DIY or call the neighborhood handyman.

Usually the city owns the strip, but this is largely irrelevant. Somewhere, there is a valve that could be closed to disconnect your house from the sewer or water main. I’d image the city or utility is responsible for maintenance up to this valve, and then the homeowner would be responsible for the rest of the line connecting to the house. It is a toss up where exactly you would find this valve, but I often see the access cover in the sidewalk or shoulder of the road.

side walk to the street is public/ city

Except where it’s not. It varies greatly by jurisdiction.

IANAL, but I believe that around here (which is the same as your around here, Tree Lawn land), the city owns the tree lawn, but the property owner is responsible for maintaining it. Find out from someone more authoritative than me, though.

Did you get a professional quote for “cost a couple of thousand dollars” and if so, does this professional know who would be responsible for the repairs?

Does your city have a central phone numbers (here it’s 311, like 911 but, yanno, with a “3”) to reach the city’s service agents?

I’ve known a few people who’ve had to replace their sewer outflow pipe (and since my house is 80 years old, it’s probably lurking in my future). It’s always been the homeowner’s expense to bear, and a few thousand dollars is in the ballpark of what I’ve heard (on the low end, frankly). Apparently earth-moving equipment is expensive, and then of course you’re confronted with re-landscaping costs. Dunno if home insurance covers these costs or not.

Most likely, the tree lawn, parkway, whatever, is a deeded easement for the purpose of allowing the utilities access to their underground lines. The surface of the land is yours - you own it and are responsible for its maintenance. The city or water district owns the sewer and water mains, but you are responsible for the pipes connecting to them. A relatively recent development is for the electricity/phone/cable TV companies to also have an easement on that land.

The specifications will vary from city to city, but when I bought a house a few years ago, there was a plat (map) showing and describing the shared utility easement as running the entire width of my property and going from the street curb line to the inner (facing the house) edge of the sidewalk.

Other than backflow preventers, I’ve never heard of valves on sewer lines, and you’re responsible for everything up to and including the point where the (usually) six inch pipe from your house connects to the sewer main.

For water lines, the city owns the water main and (usually) the meter. You’re then responsible for everything beyond the meter.

Where I am at the city owns it and I maintain it (i.e mow, rake, etc. ). Came home late afternoon on Labor Day last year to find that the city workers had dug a deep hole next to a tree in the front easement and was pumping water out into the air like a fountain. They didn’t even nod at me as I walked into the house and I didn’t approach because of what was spewing into the air looked like waste water. The crap literally coated my house. They filled in the hole, threw some seed down and left without even knocking on my door. I called the city the next day and they told me that they had a sewer backup and needed to clear the pipe, but that it wouldn’t cost me anything. Anything other than have to power wash my house with disinfectant that is and properly reseed the lawn that is. :mad:

Depends- my water meter is inside my house, but I’m responsible for repairs on the the length of pipe that serves only my house.

In that case, there’s probably a shutoff valve (like this, but probably not bright blue) near the street, and your responsibility begins there.

There is , but my point was the meter is not always the divider. Twenty years ago, my water was completely unmetered , but my responsibilty still began at the shutoff valve.

In my county there is an additional complication in many subdivisions: Uniform Community Development Districts. This is a legally defined area within which fees are assessed to maintain the infrastructure. Exactly which infrastructure is funded varies from district to district since each one is created on its own. But it’s usually water, sewer, roads, and maybe common-area landscaping. Exactly where the homowners responsibility starts and ends can also vary by district.

Data point:

In the US, there is pretty much ALWAYS a Platt map of your lot and every other lot in the incorporated area.
If interested, these are public record and usually found in the County Recorder’s office.
These are draftings; they usually measure 24x36 inches - reduced versions may be available. Eventually they will all be online, presumably.
They will show where your lot lines are, what easements exist (easements give other people the right to use all or a portion of your property - if there is a gas line down the middle of the street, you just might want to know.
But yes, if you want to know who owns that strip of land on your lot, go to the Recorder’s office and ask for the Platt Book for your lot. Your lot ID will be on the property tax bill - almost always a block/lot number in incorporated areas, farms and other acreage is likely metes & bounds.

If it is a city - look at the title block - it will tell you if that “subdivision” is a subdivision or addition - most early “plant a bunches of houses” projects were additions. It is a subdivision only if the lot was already incorporated and then carved up. If the land was NOT in the city to begin with, it is an addition.

I have both drawn up Platt books and wrote the original Assessor’s system for Indianapolis.

Call the engineering/public works division of your City with your inquiry. If they are helpful they will look up the plat and/or construction as-builts and tell you where the property line is (back of sidewalk, front of planter strip, etc.)
Hopefully the section of your sanitary lateral that is broken is on your property. If it is - rejoice! Hire someone to fix it.

If not, and if you lived in the Northwest it most likely would not, then you will most likely need a ROW permit from the City. Yes - you will most likely have to pay them money and obtain a permit to legally dig a big hole and do work in the ROW. They may be concerned with potential adverse impacts to the sidewalk, curb, gutter and pavement from the hole you dig.

In my area near Seattle, it’s an issue of who owns each section of the pipe. From the street supply to the individual meter is the water company’s responsibility. From the meter to my house (and everything inside) is my problem. Since my neighborhood was installed with faulty water lines from the meter to the house, every single house has had this issue at one time or another. I had to have someone cut up the concrete in my driveway to make the repairs; other neighbors just had to dig up lawn.

As for the grassy strip and/or sidewalks: in my area, even the street is technically on my property. If you measure everything out, about 10 feet of the street overlaps my platt map. Obviously, I get no real say about that, but I do get to pay property tax for that privilege.

For another data point: my father’s house in California had a collapsed line in the front, much as is described in the OP. Fixing it required digging up and replacing a couple feet of the street and this was considered his expense in that place and time. If memory serves, he didn’t even have a choice of contractor - the city/state transportation folks came out and did the work, then sent him a bill.