Property Responsibilities of Home Ownership

Know what your homeowner's responsibility is with pipes, electrical lines and more

Home ownership has many benefits, including the freedom to make design changes. However, home ownership also brings new responsibilities and costs you should be aware of. It is the property owner's responsibility to maintain a safe and hazard-free premises for family and guests. You might be surprised at what elements on your property are your responsibility. Take a look at these three common areas of maintenance that are the homeowner's responsibility.

1. Sidewalk maintenance

You probably assume you're responsible for maintaining your driveway, but what about the sidewalk in front of your house? Depending on what city you live in you may be responsible for more than just shoveling the sidewalk in winter. More cities are making sidewalk maintenance the homeowner's responsibility, so check your city's ordinances to find out if you need to repair cracks or more serious damage. Sidewalk repairs could cost around $1,000, so you'll want to know if you're liable for this before you get a notice from the city. Repairs can be done by an independent contractor or the city contractor whom you will reimburse. Some cities may even let you make repairs yourself.

2. Trees that affect power lines

Trees improve the aesthetics of your landscape and the health of your lawn, but they need to be properly maintained to prevent storm damage. Trees should be inspected and cared for regularly or you could be charged with negligence if branches or trees fall and damage your neighbor's property. They can also cause damage to sidewalks, power lines or roadways, which is why annual maintenance by a professional arborist or contractor is recommended.

If a tree is technically on public property or branches cross the line, it will likely be maintained by the city or the power company in your area. Trees near the power line on your property are the homeowner's responsibility and should be maintained by a professional at your expense. You are also responsible for clearing any storm damaged trees. If a power line is down, do not touch it! Call your power company to remove and replace the damaged wire.

When planting new trees, avoid planting near power lines or choose trees which will not grow high enough to interfere. This can help prevent unsightly pruning and lessen the potential damage should branches fall. If you happen to have underground lines, be sure you know where they are before digging. Make every effort to keep trees at least 10 feet away from the sidewalk to avoid unnecessary repairs from root damage.

3. Waterlines running from the road to your home

In many cities, the water supply line is the property owner's responsibility from the time it leaves the city cutoff, usually at your property boundary, until it connects with the internal stop valve in your home. You may also be responsible for maintaining the sewer or septic lines (and tank). You should check with your city and water supply company to find out exactly what you are responsible for, if they will cover any repairs, and if not, who they recommend to fix the damages. Make sure you know where your pipes are before you do any construction or digging in the yard so as not to damage the pipes.

Use your water meter to check for leaks in your water supply. Your water meter is usually located near the curb in front of your home. Turn off your internal main's stop tab, lift the lid off the meter chamber and check the meter dial. If the numbers are still turning, you probably have a leak between the internal stop valve and the meter. If you don't have a meter, the first sign of a leak will be noticeably reduced water pressure in the house, followed by water coming to the surface or running in a drain. You should call your water company if you suspect a leak so they can do a thorough inspection.

Use home equity financing to cover property expenses

It is the homeowner's responsibility to handle repairs to sidewalks and water lines as well as maintain the trees in your yard. These repairs can be costly, and are often unexpected. If you find yourself in need of financing to cover expenses, a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC) may be the answer you're looking for. Speak to a home loan advisor from Citizens Bank for more information.


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