Should a Landowner Provide Access for an Easement Survey?
As a property owner, you may be asked to sign a temporary right of access agreement to allow a survey crew to enter your land for an easement survey. Should you sign the agreement and what conditions should you place in the agreement? Condemnation Rights Attorney Philip Hundl answers those questions in this video. Call 800-266-4870 for an appointment with Mr. Hundl.
Summary of the Temporary Right of Access Agreement Video
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Something that’s come up frequently with landowners and something I’d like to talk about today is temporary right of access agreements. When there’s a possible pipeline or power line coming through your property, the pipeline company or the condemnor sends out a survey crew or a right of way agent on behalf of a survey crew to get permission to go on your property.
What Will the Survey Crew Do on Your Property?
With permission, the crew will begin to do a survey, and conduct other preliminary investigations. Those activities may include collecting soil samples and deciding whether they would bore under a creek. The crew may also conduct archaeological or cultural surveys to determine if there’s any evidence of such sites on the property. For any of that type of work, typically the landowner is going to be approached by a right of way agent who is requesting entry onto the property. Click this link for an example of one these survey permits.
Often times, the pipeline company will try to get the landowners to sign a temporary right of access agreement, without much thought. So I’d like to talk about that — whether you should sign the agreement as it’s presented to you.
Should You Give Verbal Permission for Access?
A lot of times the pipeline company will attempt to get your verbal permission for a temporary right of access. If the landowner gives verbal permission, there will often be problems. For example, the survey crew may enter the property on weekends, or during hours that aren’t convenient to the landowner.
So, what we recommend generally is to cooperate with the pipeline company. I’m saying pipeline company, it could be a power line company, could be a water line, or any type of condemnation project. We try to cooperate with the condemnors as much as we can in the beginning to allow the survey crew to come on the property and do what they need to do. However, we also want to ensure that the survey crew does not damage the property. We don’t want the crew to interfere with the landowner’s existing activities on the property.
Conditions to Consider for a Temporary Right of Access Agreement
- What we would like to do in our proposed or revised temporary right of access agreement is to first emphasize that the agreement is temporary.
- We should have a notice requirement. If there’s going to be a survey crew coming out on the property, the crew should give the landowner some notice — typically 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, whatever the landowner thinks is needed.
- Also, when the survey crew is on the property, require the crew to mark the center line of the proposed easement. The crew should also mark any temporary work areas that they are attempting to acquire in the condemnation process. Those markers allow the landowner to get a better feel for what this initial proposed route will look like. The landowner will be better able to appreciate the impact on his property and improvements. The landowner will be able to estimate how many trees are going to be affected, what fence lines will be affected, and then also exactly if there are creeks or rivers on the property, how those will be crossed.
So, we like to make the right of access agreement temporary, we don’t want it open-ended. We don’t want to allow that survey crew to enter the property for the life of the project or who knows how long.
We’d also like to limit the amount of area that survey crew can enter and go onto. There’s no need for a survey crew to run all around the property. The survey crew should limit its access and its activity on the property to the proposed easement area.
Ask for a Reporting Deadline
Also, we ask that the pipeline company provide the survey and the information gathered by the survey crews to the landowner sooner rather than later. Normally we have a time frame, just something both parties can agree upon. Although the pipeline company will eventually need to provide this information to the landowner, the landowner will get it sooner. That will help give the landowner better knowledge of the whole project.
Something else that we need to address in the temporary right of access agreement is damages. The pipeline company should be responsible for any damages caused by its survey crew.
Before Signing, Have Your Temporary Right of Access Agreement Reviewed by a Knowledgeable Attorney
These are some things to keep in mind. We don’t recommend that you give the survey crew verbal permission to enter your land. Make sure that the written temporary right of access agreement is reviewed by a knowledgeable attorney. That’s an attorney who deals with condemnation and eminent domain issues for landowners.
Would You Like an Evaluation of Your Condemnation Case?
If you’d like Mr. Hundl to provide you with an evaluation of your condemnation case, please click this link to fill out the case evaluation form. Our law firm has offices in four cities in Southeast Texas — Richmond and Fulshear in Fort Bend County and Wharton and El Campo in Wharton County and our new office is in Bay City in Matagorda County. You can arrange an appointment with Mr. Hundl at any of our offices by calling or texting 800-266-4870.