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View Full Version : Whats your policy on private utilities?


ODIrrigation
07-12-2008, 08:11 AM
I wanted to see what policies others have for damage to private utilites. Things like private gas, water, electric, satellite, drainage, dogfences, ect. Homeowners usually aren't much help with locating this stuff and there is usually no tracer. I've been operating under the policy I break it I fix it and I don't mind if its an easy fix, but I've had a couple of installs this year that I've spent alot of my time/money fixing things that were improperly installed to begin with ( electric lines 4" deep no conduit, gas lines 3" deep.) I usually try to check for this stuff but you always get some surprises. Should I just keep fixing everything or let the homeowner deal with it?

EagleLandscape
07-12-2008, 08:24 AM
Maybe put in the contract that you are not liable for private utilities, and it is homeowner's responsibility to mark all utility lines.

greenmonster304
07-12-2008, 08:35 AM
I have invested in my own locating equipment and will mark out thing to the best of my ability but I tell the customer to have a pro mark out their stuff to safe. you can write in your contract that you are not resposible for improperly installed lines but it is still a major pain if you hit one so thats why i have a toner for the utilities it just makes sure i don't get in that situation.

AI Inc
07-12-2008, 08:39 AM
Dog fences we fix em , lampost wires , we fix emif we hit em , usualy we will unscrew a lightbulb and hook up a 521 and mark it. Propane we ask where it is and pull out and hand dig the cross.
Toughest one around here is cable tv for a 15-20 yo house.It is usualy only 2" deep , has been replaced 2-3 times and the digsafe locater may have marked an old unused line leaving the used line unmarked and vulnerable.

Flow Control
07-12-2008, 08:50 AM
We put in our contracts, not responsible for anything marked or unmarked that is less then 18" deep.

AI Inc
07-12-2008, 08:58 AM
We put in our contracts, not responsible for anything marked or unmarked that is less then 18" deep.

So if you cut the lampost wire or dog fence you just tell em "sorry , can I have my check now"?

Wet_Boots
07-12-2008, 09:02 AM
Non-code buries really aren't contractor responsibilities. That said, it's easier to splice some CATV co-ax than to argue about it.

AI Inc
07-12-2008, 09:05 AM
Non-code buries really aren't contractor responsibilities. That said, it's easier to splice some CATV co-ax than to argue about it.

Thats the way I see it. No its realy not my responsibility , but Im still the guy that made it so the family cant watch tv while the customer is holding my $3k check.

Flow Control
07-12-2008, 09:12 AM
So if you cut the lampost wire or dog fence you just tell em "sorry , can I have my check now"?


If we cut an electrical or gas lamp, yes per my contract I can ask for my money and let them know that we hit the high voltage electrical line that was only x" deep when it by code it should be no less then 18" deep. As per dog fence, every dog fence company has an exclusion on there contract so they are not responsible for irrigation lines that they my hit when they install. I said we are not responsible for anything less then 18", my contract I think
lists items such as: electrical, wire, pipes, cable, phone, dog fence, etc....

Don't get me wrong if it is a easy fix we take care of it, if the customer rubs me the wrong way or if there are additional headaches with the builder, lco or whomever then I can just follow the contract that we both signed.

BTW: Radio Shack has some nice splice kits for CATV

FIMCO-MEISTER
07-12-2008, 09:18 AM
Should be a law that only irrigation lines can be buried. Everything else has to be overhead. Either that or there should be this big friggin sleeve that all the utilities can run there stuff in and out of. The dog people should be required to leave their flags up forever. And the landscape lighting people should be require to run tracer wires on all there runs.

Dirty Water
07-12-2008, 11:14 AM
Dog fences we fix em , lampost wires , we fix emif we hit em , usualy we will unscrew a lightbulb and hook up a 521 and mark it. Propane we ask where it is and pull out and hand dig the cross.
Toughest one around here is cable tv for a 15-20 yo house.It is usualy only 2" deep , has been replaced 2-3 times and the digsafe locater may have marked an old unused line leaving the used line unmarked and vulnerable.

Ditto.....

Waterit
07-12-2008, 11:33 AM
Dog fences we fix em , lampost wires , we fix emif we hit em , usualy we will unscrew a lightbulb and hook up a 521 and mark it. Propane we ask where it is and pull out and hand dig the cross.
Toughest one around here is cable tv for a 15-20 yo house.It is usualy only 2" deep , has been replaced 2-3 times and the digsafe locater may have marked an old unused line leaving the used line unmarked and vulnerable.

Here we're lucky if the cable TV is 2" deep - I've seen them flip the sod back, lay the wire, then flip sod back over. Last week I finished out a lateral, stuck my shovel in the ground, and broke the 1" water main.

I've trenched up gas that was only 6" deep, electrical that was less than a foot, seen sewer that was actually above-ground...

We usually fix what we hit, other than gas.

nylan8888
07-13-2008, 09:41 AM
About 6 years ago we hit some under ground wiring that powers the parking lot lighting at a large commercial building. Wire was in conduit and you wouldn't believe how fast it came out and wrapped up in the trencher. It cost over $3000.00 to fix it. We were doing a $1200.00 job of adding a bed zone. The following statement is now in all of our contracts.

"Contractor is responsible only for utility lines marked by OKIE utility marking service . We take no responsibility for private lines that are not professionally marked at owners expense such as parking lot lighting, landscape lighting, electrical lines to out buildings, fiber optics, swimming pool equipment etc."

It doesn't stop you from repairing what you break but it does make it your choice to repair it, and protects you from catastrophic loss.

AI Inc
07-13-2008, 09:57 AM
About 6 years ago we hit some under ground wiring that powers the parking lot lighting at a large commercial building. Wire was in conduit and you wouldn't believe how fast it came out and wrapped up in the trencher. It cost over $3000.00 to fix it. We were doing a $1200.00 job of adding a bed zone. The following statement is now in all of our contracts.

"Contractor is responsible only for utility lines marked by OKIE utility marking service . We take no responsibility for private lines that are not professionally marked at owners expense such as parking lot lighting, landscape lighting, electrical lines to out buildings, fiber optics, swimming pool equipment etc."

It doesn't stop you from repairing what you break but it does make it your choice to repair it, and protects you from catastrophic loss.

For some murphys law reason , it does seem you do the most damage on the least profitable jobs. I did a front lawn rebuild to Octobers ago and hit the trunk for the cable , took out the whole neighborhood.

Flow Control
07-13-2008, 09:58 AM
It doesn't stop you from repairing what you break but it does make it your choice to repair it, and protects you from catastrophic loss.

What could also protect you from a catastrophic loss is a clause that would limit any damages to the price of the contract. e.g. your bid was $1200 so you would limit your damages to $1200.

FIMCO-MEISTER
07-13-2008, 10:06 AM
About 6 years ago we hit some under ground wiring that powers the parking lot lighting at a large commercial building. Wire was in conduit and you wouldn't believe how fast it came out and wrapped up in the trencher. It cost over $3000.00 to fix it. We were doing a $1200.00 job of adding a bed zone. The following statement is now in all of our contracts.

"Contractor is responsible only for utility lines marked by OKIE utility marking service . We take no responsibility for private lines that are not professionally marked at owners expense such as parking lot lighting, landscape lighting, electrical lines to out buildings, fiber optics, swimming pool equipment etc."

It doesn't stop you from repairing what you break but it does make it your choice to repair it, and protects you from catastrophic loss.

Another reason I got out of installs and owning a trencher. I'll go get 6 hand diggers if that's what it takes. If I can't hand dig it then pass on the job. i got hit with a speeding ticket going to a part of town I don't even want to service. The ticket will cost me more than the invoice. I was half thinking about putting the cost of the speeding ticket on the invoice.:)

AI Inc
07-13-2008, 10:07 AM
The ticket will cost me more than the invoice. I was half thinking about putting the cost of the speeding ticket on the invoice.:)

Did the customer ask you to get there as fast as you can?

FIMCO-MEISTER
07-13-2008, 10:09 AM
Did the customer ask you to get there as fast as you can?

No, but but but............ Aw forget it.

Flow Control
07-13-2008, 10:10 AM
It doesn't stop you from repairing what you break but it does make it your choice to repair it, and protects you from catastrophic loss.

What could also protect you from a catastrophic loss is a clause that would limit any damages to the price of the contract. e.g. your bid was $1200 so you would limit any damages to $1200.

I had a service call a few years ago (new customer, first time we were there.) The guy just had a new water feature installed and wanted us to come by and look at how much it would be to get the irrigation up and running. We we ran through the system and had 2 zones that were down due to the installation of the water feature. I took the site information and started to work up a quote to redo the two zones. Well the guy goes home that night and runs through his system and ran those two zones for 30+mins each (we left the timer in the OFF position.) He ends up flooding the water feature that was on a slope and it is washes down the slope. Long story short is I had a 10K insurance claim because "even though we turned the system to OFF we did not unplug the controller." Keep in mind it was not an existing customer and it was the first time we were there and we left the controller in the OFF position. After the claim went through he had the nerve of asking us to come back and repair the two zones. I replied "Are you serious?" and told him to look else where.

Anyway I was just trying to explain that after something like that happens I started putting a lot of "small print" in my contracts and I am fortunate enough to have an attorney as a wife. So she looks over all of my contracts before they go to print.

irrig8r
07-13-2008, 01:44 PM
It's really amazing how quickly a Ditchwitch can wind enough THHN around itself to stop it cold. We're talking about 10 seconds...

In my case it was tennis court lights wiring. The owner wasn't aware that the wiring was there. We were trenching for a root barrier and drain line about 2 feet away form the pavement to prevent the cedar root intrusion that was buckling the court, and moving some sprinklers.

I replaced the wire and conduit and his electrician made the connections. Took about 45 minutes just to cut the wire away from the boom and auger... And I charged him T and M for it.

Waterit
07-13-2008, 04:20 PM
It's really amazing how quickly a Ditchwitch can wind enough THHN around itself to stop it cold. We're talking about 10 seconds...

I've "bought " many an extension cord from parking-lot lights not buried deep enough or improperly marked. In fact wired part of my recent 500SF house addition from a wind-'em-up of 10-3 10GA, and ran the power for the A/C with some wind-'em-up 6 from a few years ago.

txgrassguy
07-13-2008, 05:54 PM
I am not responsible for any damaged utilities, either private or public.
Here in Texas there is a free marking service called Dig Tess that will mark essentially everything - it's all in how you ask for the marking in the first place.
Things like electric dog fences, landscape lighting, unmarked utilities my company may repair depending on extent of damage. A clipped dog fence is one thing but an unmarked gas line is something else altogether.
There are several contractors in the area for the different services that I can call if I do not want to repair, they give me a discounted rate for the repair as we are always referring work to one another and I do not mark up the repair quote.
In my area of operations nothing is ever installed to code, I will not be responsible for unmarked utilities, can't really as half the stuff I find shouldn't be there anyways. Heck on a few jobs I thought we were going to locate Jimmy Hoffa amongst all the other crap that came up.
So far I have found among other things, a buried car in the front grading to a million dollar home (yes it was stolen but not by us - and unfortunately my ex-wife wasn't found in the trunk), an unmarked 1000 gallon diesel tank, a 2500 gallon septic tank, tires, neighborhood cable lines, an unmarked 300 pair telephone bundle (for ALL of the alarms in the neighborhood), storm drains, basically all manner of crap. So no, if it isn't marked I won't be responsible.
I am up front with all of my customers about this policy but like I said a dog fence is one thing, even a simple 115 volt curb lighting line, but anything else - nope, won't touch it.

Mike Leary
07-13-2008, 06:14 PM
We started a job, had our people locate everything, we thought. Trenching away, hit something, client comes rolling out, pissed....turned out to be fiber optic he used to day
trade in New York, my fault?, hell no, he blamed me, I bailed. :)

Waterit
07-14-2008, 10:53 PM
Today we banged out a 5-zone 40-head system, and while back-dragging with the trencher blade I nicked a piece of 10/2UF. Obviously it wasn't very deep. HO comes running out screaming from garage/playroom - he was in middle of whomping some guy online with his Xbox when the breaker tripped.

Cost me $100 for wire, plus another 15+/- for weatherproof boxes and covers, etc., AND the time to trench the wire in to a slightly more appropriate depth: 18". Plus the 3 laterals we had to fix because I whacked 'em...

Revised contract will have a "Not responsible for unlocated utilities" clause underlined and in bold

Mike Leary
07-14-2008, 11:17 PM
Revised contract will have a "Not responsible for unlocated utilities" clause underlined and in bold

Only a rookie would not have a sit-down with the client and appraise them of
the "what we may hit" scenario.

Waterit
07-15-2008, 09:29 AM
Only a rookie would not have a sit-down with the client and appraise them of
the "what we may hit" scenario.

Guess that evens us up for the "only Leary can't locate" crack on the other thread:laugh:

weissihm
07-15-2008, 11:34 AM
Maybe put in the contract that you are not liable for private utilities, and it is homeowner's responsibility to mark all utility lines.
That is exactly what we do. It is stated in our contract we are not responsible. However, if it is something we can quickly fix, we do and add that to the invoice at the end of the job.

Mike Leary
07-15-2008, 01:02 PM
We have a not for profit locating service up here, supported by the utilities. I had them
out to locate a missing brass valve....he's popping through with his metro tech,
says,"here it is", I look at him and say, "under the swimming pool?" "Yep", he says.
I throw him out, go buy a 521 and find the valve 30' away from the pool.:dizzy:

weissihm
07-15-2008, 01:07 PM
We also have our own locator, for some of those circumstances. We've had our share of missed locates. Plus if the customer has an idea of where something is, then we get out the locator and find it. The locator pays for itself, when you think of the time saved.