Sense of “un-easement” for Chesapeake woman after Dominion Energy revelation

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – Imagine building a garage or shed on your property only to be told you have no right to? It happened to one Chesapeake woman when she found her detached two-car garage is actually sitting on Dominion Energy’s easement.

Kendall Irving bought her home in the Hickory neighborhood of Chesapeake in 2021. The 24×24 detached garage was a big incentive for her and her family, giving them extra storage space. But she didn’t know until Dominion Energy came knocking that it shouldn’t have been built in the first place.

Kendall Irving had big plans for her house. “Expand our master bedroom, or a sunroom, screened in porch, something like that,” Irving said.

She never imagined their large 24×24 garage would be a problem. Dominion Energy said she had to either move or tear down the garage, contracted by the previous owners. Irving said her real estate agent never mentioned it.

“We did ask about the power lines and we were told that our property goes all the way back underneath them and that no one can build behind us,” Irving added.

Turns out, they can’t build behind them either. Dominion Energy told them the garage, and in fact everything from their back wall to the street is Dominion’s domain.

“Dominion has the rights to it, and we can’t do anything with it, and we were never told about it.”

The original survey of the house shows the easement boundaries, but Irving said they were not told this at closing. The garage was granted a permit, so 10 On Your Side went to the City of Chesapeake to ask what happened.

Jay Tate is Director of Development and Permits. He explained, “The city only has direct access to easements and right-of-way and property lines that we have records of. And a lot of easements that exist, that property owners may or may not know about, are recorded as private agreements between an entity like a Dominion Power and the property owner themselves or even a previous property owner,” Tate told us.

Dominion Energy FAQs on Easements

That extra information requires a title search at the cost of the contractor or homeowner, and many don’t want to pay for it, so they go without. But it could cost them more in the long run.

“We certainly understand their concern and frustration when it comes to realizing you have an encroachment on our easement,” Dominion Energy spokesperson Jeremy Slayton said.

Irving may have to pay to have it demolished. To avoid such a costly mishap, officials say it’s important to look over your home’s paperwork at closing.

“When they purchase the property, there should be a title report that gives all the information about their property. And it should be a written record of any encumbrances that are on the property in the way of easements,” Tate said.

But some homeowners forego a survey. If you don’t have one, you can hire a surveyor to come out and look at the property. Even if you don’t plan on building, it’s nice to know if there are any surprises. If there’s an illegal encroachment, it could cost you.

“In some instances, we do reach out, we do offer to offset some of those costs associated with the removal or relocation,” Slayton said.

Chances are what they offer won’t make a big difference. It’s safer to take a look at, or pay for a survey and be sure, rather than being stuck paying for the removal of something that should not have been built.

“They only go around and do this maybe once every 50 years, check their easements and if they see structures, specifically structures, they want them removed. Just because. Because they can. Cause it’s their right,” Irving said.

Surveys of your home can be found at the city or county courthouse. If there isn’t one on file, you can hire a surveyor to come out and draw one up. The cost runs between $200 and $800, however if your property is in a suburb and is a straightforward plot of land, that cost will tend to the cheaper end.

For more on Dominion Energy’s easements, click here.

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