I had an epiphany today and my guess is
that very few real estate professionals, or for that matter anyone else knows
about this. Unless you are directly
involved in what I will call the electrical power supply business, the details
of how you get the electricity to maintain your home or who maintains the
service rarely crosses your mind. You
spend less time thinking about that than you do the water you drink or the air
you breathe. But it is very important. I
am going to talk about who owns your electrical power supply equipment – the
lines, transformers and poles.
I have lived in a so-called exclusive West Tisbury community populated by more than 45 families
for over 40 years. There has always been
a ROW utility easement across the property and through the woods for the
utility company to supply electricity to the abutting properties. In my experience it has been the utility
company that has always maintained proper clearance by trimming the trees along
the ROW. The utility company has always
maintained the power lines, transformers and poles along the private roads
network within the community. It makes
perfect sense to me that if I pay for the ‘service’, part of that service
should be maintaining continuity and consistent service. Right!
I learned today, this is not the
necessarily the norm on Martha’s Vineyard and only a few communities have
service networks providing electricity to homes that are owned and serviced by
the utility company, presently known as NStar.
In most cases NStar supplies and maintains an electrical service system
to a point and beyond that, the system is the responsibility of the property
owners along their private roads.
is the big deal?
It’s not a big deal until the trees
along the service path are overgrown and threatening the service continuity, or
until the infrastructure of that service has been fully depreciated and
compromised. What I mean by ‘fully
depreciated is, when the electrical wires are old, brittle and leaking,
transformers are failing due to corrosion and wooden utility poles are rotten
and no longer able to carry their load.
The big deal is the cost of replacing all those components that provide
the infrastructure keeping your lights on.
Actually, it’s not a big deal, it will be a huge deal and will cost you
dearly – unless you choose to live ‘off the grid’ and even then you may be in
for a fight with your neighbors.
those utility poles Mister NStar
We can all agree that above ground
utility poles and wires are ugly, and my vote would be to bury all utilities. Spring Point in Chilmark is replacing their
entire service and from what I have been told they are going underground all
the way. I love Spring Point. Did I mention that they are one of the other
rare Island community cases where NStar owns
the service system and has to maintain it?
It is estimated that the service replacement is going to cost well over
a million dollars.
should you do?
For one, if you are a Buyer considering
a purchase in a ‘community’ with private roads, find out who owns the utility
system. My guess is that you will not
find that information in the Association Rules and Regulations. If it is
privately owned and there is a home owner association, do they have a reserve
to set aside to earmark funds to maintain the electrical system (tree trimming
and equipment replacement)? If you are
already an owner in a private community, find out what provisions have been
made to support the maintenance of the electrical system.
can cost you dearly
Do not wait for a failure or a threat
from NStar that they will turn off the electrical supply service to the
community until certain maintenance issues have been corrected – like trimming
trees around utility lines. This all can
happen during a storm and I am sure you can imagine the difficulty factor when
trying to get personal emergency help during a storm. You are just one more name on a list of
hundreds. This is just another good
reason to own a back-up generator.
Sue you Blues
I have been told on a regular basis
there are any number of litigative actions arising out of disputes between home
owners as to who owns what and what the fair share of each property owner
should be when a utility problem occurs. The court costs alone can exceed any
amount that would be paid for being responsible and setting up preventive
measure rules and funds ahead of time.
it be nice?
I think it would really be a considerate
‘public service’ disclosure for NStar to notify those customers affected that
maintenance and safety of their service system is the responsibility of the
home owners in their community. For all I know they may be doing that but if
not wouldn’t it be nice. I hate surprises – don’t you?