Confusion over KCMO property lines leads to costly sewer repairs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Confusion over property lines could end up costing a metro couple thousands of dollars following a sewage backup.

Stacey Roske and her husband dealt with a backup on Labor Day and called a plumber for help.

After looking into the matter, the plumber believed the backup was happening in a section of pipe underneath an area of grass between the sidewalk and road outside Roske’s home.

The plumber later dug a hole to the pipe and found the backup happening underneath a portion of the city street.

City crews were called to look into the issue and ended up telling Roske bad news.

“As soon as they saw that we had started a hole, they said, ‘Well, you've dug in our easement,’” she explained. “We both thought the easement starts at the curb. Nope, it starts at the sidewalk." 

As a result of digging into city property and initially thinking the city could pay for repairs, Roske or the plumbing company will be responsible for the project.

“If you start in anyway working on it, you're on the hook for it,” she explained. “My concern is that most homeowners might not realize that could be an issue."

KC Water addressed the issue in an email sent to 41 Action News.

In a statement, spokesperson Brooke Givens said the issue was never reported and the plumber never received a permit to do the work on city property.

“When a homeowner experiences a sewer backup, KC Water will respond and flush and investigate the City main to ensure normal flow,” the statement read. “If the problem is KC Water’s responsibility, work will begin to make the repair. If the problem is on the private line, the homeowner will need to hire a plumber to locate the blockage and make the repair.  In this case, the issue was not reported to KC Water.”

The statement added that as a result of the plumber not having a proper permit for work on city property, the cost of repairs would transfer away from the city.

“Anyone digging into a City street or City asset is required to have the correct permits,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, no permits were issued for this address.  Because the excavation work was done without approval, the party responsible for the digging is responsible for the repair and restoration.”

Work on the sewer line has already cost Roske and her family around $16,000.

With the road continuing to be worked on following the incident, she wondered if she would have to pay anything more.

“We've paid for the part that we knew we were going to pay for. Will there be additional costs? Will we be paying for the paving of the street?” she asked. “It's an impact because you have money in the bank that you intend to do something else with and then suddenly you're writing a huge check to your plumber."

Roske said she was continuing to work with the plumbing company on resolving the issue.

“Our plumber worked in good faith,” she explained. “He started the process as he should."

The backup is no longer an issue inside of Roske’s home.

However, she told 41 Action News she learned an important lesson from the ordeal.

“If it gets anywhere near the sidewalk, stop and call the city,” she said. 

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