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Manhole/Sewer cover in backyard

kyk2001's picture

Hi all, I'm house hunting at the moment and came across a property with a manhole or sewer cover in the backyard near to one side of the plot. What are the implications? Is building expansion restricted? If I wanted to build an inground swimming pool, will that be a problem? Thanks.

(post #66430, reply #1 of 20)

Do a title search now, before making an offer

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Sojourners: Christians for Justice and Peace

======================================== "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary." Reinhold Niebuhr: 'The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness' ========================================

(post #66430, reply #2 of 20)

I plan to do that..but was wondering if anyone else had this experience. Thanks.

(post #66430, reply #3 of 20)

There are a million things that could be.

Starting with a home made setup for valve for a sprinker system.

It might be a "your" sewer pump if the city sewer or septic system elevation is such as it can run by gravity.

Where I live every house has a such a pump that feeds a force main.

First thing to do is to ask the sellers. That does not mean to take there whole word for it, but to give you a starting point.

. William the Geezer, the sequel to Billy the Kid - Shoe

(post #66430, reply #4 of 20)

The sellers are clueless...thanks for the reply. I'm having an inspection done later today...maybe the inspector can tell me more as well.

(post #66430, reply #5 of 20)

is it a street type manhole? or a tank with a steel top - could be a sewage grinder pump tank for that house

(post #66430, reply #8 of 20)

Its a street type manhole

(post #66430, reply #6 of 20)

If it is with the house sewer/sepetic then the inspector might be able to figure out what it is.

You might also check with the neighbors.

The next step is the city engineering department and/or the city/county for sub-divison plat maps. They might show utility lines.

The last point is the title search which might show up an easement.

Depending on the age and where this came from it possible that you won't find any documentation on it and if you do it might not be very specific about it's location or it might have been moved from the orginal documentation.

If you have problems IDing it and the house is otherwise worth it to take the effort then you can get a Location company or plumber that can put down a camera with a transmitter on it and determiner the path of the pipe.

. William the Geezer, the sequel to Billy the Kid - Shoe

(post #66430, reply #7 of 20)

Danger Danger Danger!!!!!

  I had something similar , my neighbor has his power line across my property..  No easement,   no  public condemnation, nothing that grants the power lines to be there..

  Sounds simple doesn't it?   just tell the neighbor to move his line..   Two years later and not only is the line still there but he's added a TV cable line..   I call a lawyer and inspite of a law that says that he can't have it I can't do anything untill he decides to move it..

  Legal costs are about to go thru the roof and the lawyers I've contacted don't want to deal with it, too petty, not worth their time, unless I give them a $2000.00 dollar retainer and agree to keep it filled to that amount untill the matter is resolved..   NO estimate of the amount that's likely to wind up at..

  I go to court on July 5th to deal with trying to deal with it myself..

(post #66430, reply #11 of 20)

That's precisely what I'm afraid of. Good luck in your case and thanks for the heads up.

(post #66430, reply #9 of 20)

Blow it up. The proper authorities will clue you in on what it really is.

This should be done before you put any money down on the property.

Trust me. I checked.


Let me drop everything I'm doing so I can work on your problem!


Let me drop everything I'm doing so I can work on your problem!

(post #66430, reply #13 of 20)

what do you mean by blow it up? Kick up a fuss?

(post #66430, reply #18 of 20)

It was a tongue in cheek reply. Don't take it seriously. : )


Let me drop everything I'm doing so I can work on your problem!


Let me drop everything I'm doing so I can work on your problem!

(post #66430, reply #10 of 20)

If you feel it is a municipal sewer, storm or sanitary, a simple trip to the city/township/village office will give you a answer. The unit of gov't should have an easement on record and be able to tell you where it runs and what you can do over top of it.  This would be the first place to start, quicker and cheeper than a title search. Ask guy next door too, but unit of gov't would be the offical responce.

But this does not replace a tile search!!!!


(post #66430, reply #12 of 20)

sounds like a plan..I'm going to start dialing the city engineering dept now.

(post #66430, reply #14 of 20)

Good, I say this because I am the mayor of our city, pop. of 6,000 in 1 sq mile and we have dozens of easements for storm, water, & sanitary in our small town. We have granted many variances to build because an easement restricted them. An muncipial easement is not the end of the earth, but is does limit you as to what you can do. Look into it before  purchasing. 


(post #66430, reply #15 of 20)

Could be a sanitary sewer or a storm sewer MH in a permiter easement running between lots.  Pop it open and see if it stinks.  It it does, chances are that it's a sanitary.  Generally, you can't build permanant structures within 10' of of the easement, but that varies from state to state.


(post #66430, reply #19 of 20)

Alright, I finally got off the phone with the City Engineering dept. Tom, you were spot on! Not only is there an easement, there is a sliver of land running about 30ft wide running between the double lot that is owned by PSE&G. The easement has been granted to the town for the sanitary sewer. Well, that explains the telephone pole in the yard...

(post #66430, reply #20 of 20)

Thought that might be the case.  Little horror story here.  About 20 years ago a developer bought some very high end lots in a sub in the hills west of here.  Put a few of the smaller lots together in one area to make some larger ones.  People bought the lots, started building houses.  A GC was excavating for a slab on one, and ran into a MH on the side of the hill.  24" sanitary interceptor coming from up the hill.  The jackleg surveying company had not checked for easements before re-subing the lots.  Found a half-dozen $500,000 homes were built OVER easements.  City vacated the easements and re-routed the lines.  Don't you know their title insurance companys were PO'd?


(post #66430, reply #16 of 20)

It could be almost anything.

If this property is in a municipality, talk to the local building department.

I used street type manhole covers over composite sump pits I sank into the back yard as drywells. It could be anything. You need to open it at a minimum and see what's there. If examination doesn't help, talk to the village people. Some old grease traps had covers that might look like manhole covers too.

(post #66430, reply #17 of 20)

Like the others have said you need to check this out. At my place, for instance, there are three such manhole covers along the driveway. The are used to access underground vaults with conduits that run between various buildings that contain telco, TV, intercom and , Lan cables.  Nothing scary, just available so that I don't have dig up lawn/driveway when I want to add a circuit or make a change.  You might have something similar.