Virginia family spends $3,000 'they don't have' after sewer lines installed on wrong property

Posted at 3:21 PM, Apr 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-23 15:21:45-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Standing next to exposed pipe and dirt beside his parents’ house, Marcrease Hicks is frustrated.

His parents have lived in downtown Newport News since the 1960s. He says in November they called HomeServe, their home warranty company, because the drains were backing up.


Hicks tells me HomeServe contracted a company and they installed a new pipe.

"They did all of this here without a permit and they took a shortcut," Hicks said. "That shortcut ended up being a long detour — almost six months and counting."

Come to find out, and confirmed by a land survey from the City of Newport News, the company put the new sewer line on the Hicks’ neighbor's property.

"She was stunted. She couldn't do what she wanted to do with her newly purchased land," he said.

I wanted to know why the company didn't pull property records before starting the work and how this happened.

In a statement, a spokesperson from HomeServe told me the following:

“Our contractors would not know the property boundaries […] when performing repair work, they would simply repair or replace needed portions of the original sewer line in the same location or right next to the original pipe. This is standard practice everywhere. However, because there are other utility lines (water and gas) in the same location at the sewer pipe and because the excavation was facilitated by a backhoe, our contractor deviated from installing new pipe in the same location. Based upon photographs provided by our contractors and the Hicks, and as everyone now understands, the newly installed sewer line has encroached on the neighbor’s property.”

As the home was built decades ago, Hicks said he understands the complications with fixing the line, but it was the company’s responsibility to manage it properly.

"Instead of doing the due diligence at the genesis of the issue, they did it five to six months later, which is causing all kinds of issues and problems," he said.

Hicks pointed to travel as another issue the family is facing. He lives in Washington D.C., and his brother lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

He said the two have had to make several trips to town and find lodging for their parents when utilities were turned off.

Hicks said that since November, it has cost them around $3,000 out of pocket.

"It's costing the little man money that we shouldn’t be shelling out. And if we do have to shell it out, we should be reimbursed for it," he said.

I asked the company about this. HomeServe said, "[we've] spent over $20,000 on this one, well in excess of the service plan benefit. We don’t cover incidental costs related to repairs, which is explicitly spelled out in the plan’s terms and conditions."

While Hicks is glad HomeServe paid for removing and re-routing the line around the home, he says his family is still paying for a problem they didn't cause.

"Everybody around here are just regular, average citizens," he said. "We want the big people, who we pay, to stand up—versus shutting up—when it’s time to put up."

I asked HomeServe for an interview on the matter. In a statement they said in part, "We are pleased that the repair was completed as the homeowner requested and, now that the job is done, consider this matter fully resolved."

While this matter was unusual and complicated, this serves as a cautionary tale for others to know their property first.

Before a company begins work on your property, it’s recommended that homeowners have their land records and know what city permits are needed to complete the work.

Brianna Lanham contributed to this story.

EAT IT, VIRGINIA restaurant news and interviews



Watch 'The Jennifer Hudson Show' weekdays at 3 p.m. on CBS 6!

📱 Download CBS 6 News App
The app features breaking news alerts, live video, weather radar, traffic incidents, closings and delays and more.