Home Buying in Bellefonte>Question Details

Skline, Home Buyer in Bellefonte, PA

My neighbor's property is in the process of being foreclosed on. I recently discovered that the leach feild is on MY property. I found this out

Asked by Skline, Bellefonte, PA Thu Jun 10, 2010

because he was told by the bank he could not sell the house or transfer the title of the home to his father, becuase he has no rights to the drain field. We did not know the drain feild was actually on the property until after we closed on our home, whish was a little over a year ago. The neighbor offered to buy that chunk of land so that he could sell the property but he wanted it for basically pennies, and the peice he wanted is about an 1/8th of an acre. We own about 2 acres and this small peice is on the corner of our lot and is divided off by his driveway which is a right of way through our property. Do I have any legal premises to ask the bank that is repossessing the home to move and or remove this drain field or purchase this property from me? The foreclosure property is over an acre and I would be willing to swap out by re-surveying the properties. I should mention that the septic is either broken or full and is now leaking sewage onto my property. Suggestions?

Help the community by answering this question:


Please take Don Tepper's advice and consult an attorney.

I also am not an attorney and this should not be considered legal advice.

Your question reminded me of a hair raising personal experience I had about 4 years ago. I represented a listing where the seller needed to replace the failed drain field in order to sell the home. The seller contracted with a septic company who installed a new system. Neither the homeowner nor the septic installer performed a survey to determine the property line and the new drain field encroached on the neighbors property. Now, mind you, this septic inspection passed all the inspections and approvals of municipal and government agencies. No one noticed that this septic system was going to be a problem.

When the buyer's moved into the home, the neighbor knocked on the their door and told them that their septic system was on his property. You might imagine that this was a very stressful situation for all involved (Well, maybe not for the neighbor. I think he had visions of $$$).

The buyer engaged an attorney who contacted the septic company. The septic company ultimately paid the neighbor and recorded an easement on his deed.

There are many considerations in PA real estate law that come into play in your circumstances. How long has the septic system been there? What were the particulars concerning land boundaries at the time it was installed? What agreements were in place (if any) when it was installed?

There are many, many aspects of this situation that need to be ascertained before anyone could render an opinion on how to resolve the issue. This is probably not an issue that will be resolved in the Trulia Q&A forum.

One thing is certain, if your neighbor is encroaching on your property for any reason, that will effect your ability to make decisions concerning that property and, for your own benefit, you need to resolve the issue sooner rather than later.

Hope that helps. I wish you best of luck,

Joe Sheehan
RE/Max Professional Realty, Inc.
Exton, PA 19341

Office: (610) 363-8444
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 11, 2010
I appreciate the clarifications.

Again, a disclaimer: This isn't legal advice.

First, there are some pro bono (free) legal services serving Bellefonte. See http://lawyers.justia.com/lawyers/pennsylvania/bellefonte

I figured that moving the field was impractical. Either that, or that your home had been built on part of the property that had originally belonged to the other property. But moving it was the first possibility to consider.

I agree with you: The bank is between a rock and a hard place. They're the ones that need a functioning leach field. Without that the house probably can't be sold to live in--it'd probably have to be sold just as land on which someone could NOT live.

So, what happens? I doubt you can force the bank to purchase that area of your land. The 100 year lease proposal is understandable, and might make sense in return for fixing the field, keeping the field in good repair, and for reasonable payment. But since that's not what's being offered, it doesn't make sense for you to accept that deal.

The major risks to you appear to be: (1) the actual physical risks from the leaking sewage; and (2) the possibility that your home might be subject to condemnation because of it.

You should look into Dan's suggestion regarding title insurance. I kind of doubt that's a solution since there's likely no problem with your title. Still, leave no stone unturned.

So, look into the pro bono legal services. And recognize that the bank's likely in a far worse situation than you are.

Hope that helps.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 10, 2010
Don Tepper, Real Estate Pro in Fairfax, VA
I would NOT do a lease. Control your property 100% or get rid of it.

Whatever happens if that field has to be on your property you can charge as much as you want for it. I would not sign anything for nothing.

Up here we have pine tree legal. They are a state sponsored legal services for the low income/unable to afford a lawyer crowd. If you contact your local senator, congressman, probably even city hall person they could tell you about a similar program near you. Just a low income legal services that you can use. Maybe you should ask at the dept. of (state) human services. They might be able to offer low cost, maybe even free legal help.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 10, 2010
Not sure how to respond to the answers, so I am answering my own question. There is definitely no easements. That much I was able to ascertain. The drain field cannot be moved as the position of the septic in regard to property lines only live the septic to be moved uphill. I suppose that is possible but will cost from estimations I gathered myself a 1/4 of what the home is worth as is. I cannot afford to retain a lawyer, I am sure I can get the costs back later but I am struggling to make my bills now. That is why I was hoping I would have legal rights to force the bank to buy my property or trade me. It seems as if they are between a rock and a hard place. I wonder if there are laws in regards to them being able to actually sell that property without the rights to a drain feild. The bank had asked the owner to request a 100 yr lease from me? But he wanted me to sign a lease allwoing his broken septic to continue leaking on my property and WOULD not fix it...and he wanted this all for FREE! I am young, not wealthy, and confused. I do appreciate all of the answers and good suggestions though!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 10, 2010
If you know for sure that its on your property, contact a excavator for a couple hundred dollars and have him did down to the edge of your property and cap off all lateral lines going to your property. It becomes his problem when his sewer backs up or runs over your property. Also call the Health and Senior services and tell them there is a health risk of leaking sewer.
Flag Wed Jul 8, 2015
Is this property you are talking about on axemann rd?
Flag Sat Nov 9, 2013
can I get an address for this property? is it by chance axemann road?
Flag Sat Nov 9, 2013
What you're asking is best answered by a lawyer. I'm not a lawyer, so what follows is not legal advice.

Can you ask the bank to move or remove the drain field, or purchase the property from you? Sure. They might choose to purchase it, or to install one on the property it serves (if the land perks). But whether they choose to do that or not is strictly up to them.

You say that the field isn't working properly. Ask your lawyer whether it'd be permissible simply to stop the flow from the other house to your home. It'd be important to know whether your neighbor has an easement or any other sort of legal right to the field. (I do see you've said that the other house couldn't be sold "because he has no rights to the drain field." Don't take their word for it; have a lawyer look into whether any sort of legal rights exist.

The failed field leaking sewage on your property does raise all sorts of issues. Again, I'm not a lawyer, but it's possible your county or township might decide that YOUR house was uninhabitable since there is raw sewage spilling from a field on your property onto your land. Check with a lawyer.

At this point, my non-lawyer reaction would be to stop the seepage as soon as possible. Then let the bank figure out what it can do with a house with a non-functioning leach field.

But, to repeat myself, you really need a lawyer.

Hope that helps.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 10, 2010
Don Tepper, Real Estate Pro in Fairfax, VA
This is a question for a lawyer. You may be able to place a lien on that property to cover the costs involved with the leach field. (maybe not)

Does the neighbor have a easement for the leachfield? You need to know.

Does the neighbor have room to place a new leachfield on their property? You need to know. If not you have the bank or the next seller in a bind as they need your property.

Yup, talk to a legal eagle to get the answers you need.

p.s. you should have bought title insurance when you bought the house. Maybe it will cover this issue also.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 10, 2010
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