When digging or excavating in your yard, a potential hazard may exist because your utilities may have underground equipment installed relatively close to the surface. Since an unknown hazard may exist, you should obtain permission prior to digging or excavating in your yard.

What Types of Interference May Be Caused by Digging?

Although it may not be obvious, some utility lines may be only several feet away from the ground surface. Even installing a new sprinkler system may result in some damage unless all locations of underground equipment are clearly marked. The following utilities may be damaged by land work on your property:

  • Telephone / communications cables
  • Underground water lines
  • Electric power lines
  • Gas pipes

Hitting a utility line while digging in your backyard may result in costly property damage, damages to your neighbors’ property, and personal injury to yourself and others.

Excavation Requirements

Activities such as digging and drilling are always regulated and strictly enforced. To ensure that you do not violate any local regulations, always be sure to:

  • Obtain the appropriate permits for land work
  • Mark locations of underground utilities prior to work
  • Provide advanced, timely notice to your utility companies
  • Ensure that all utilities have time to mark the premises
  • Protect all marked utility locations until land work ceases

What Liability May Result for Violating a Regulation?

Even if you dig on your property without the appropriate permit, a careless error may result in legal liability. For example, a neighbor may have a negligence claim against you if property damage results from non-compliance with safety standards or regulations. If your action causes a nuisance, your neighbors may also have a legal claim.

Here are several examples of lawsuits for inappropriate digging or excavating on one’s land:

  • Strict liability for dangerous activities such as drilling or blasting
  • Liability for negligent actions
  • Trespass to land liability
  • Private nuisance liability

Note that there may be other administrative penalties and fees for violating local ordinances and statues.

Seeking Help from an Attorney

To ensure that you fully comply with all applicable regulations that may apply to digging projects, you should consider contacting a local land use attorney . You should also consult an real estate attorney if you fear that a neighbor may have a legal claim against you.