Can I legally tear down a utility pole?

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Can I legally tear down a utility pole?

There are 2 utility support poles on my property
that are ugly and bringing down my property
value.

Weve contacted the electric/phone company
they say it is not their pole. Weve contacted
the village and they say the poles do not
belong to them. No one will claim the poles,
and the village has been very unhelpful in
trying to find the owner/contact info of the
poles.

Asked on June 4, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Are there any utility easements on your deed? If so, who has the easements? That may indicate who owns the poles.
Are the poles still apparently in use? That is, are they still carrying/connected to wires? If they are, could you have an electrician scale the poles and use one of their sensors or meters to determine if they are still carrying any current or signal? And even if they are connected to wires, can you trace those wires back to some junction box or transformer, etc.? It may be that if you trace any wires, you will find that they are cut off at some point, and so obviously not in use. Or you may find on the junction box or transformer, etc. some evidence of who they do belong to.
If the poles are still in use, then taking them down would be very risky legally: you could potentially be sued by for all costs arising out of taking down the poles and also any disruption of service you thereby cause--potentially, a very large amount.
On the other hand, if you can confirm that the poles are not in use--e.g. no wires; or wires on them, but those wires are not connected to anything; etc.--then you can take them down with comparatively little risk: the most exposure you should have, if anyone does try to later claim they are their poles, would be the cost of the poles themselves. Based on what you have written, it is very unlikely someone would appear to claim out-of-use poles; and it would be very difficult for the electri/phone company or village itself to press any claim against you if they later discover these were their poles, after first telling you that these are not their poles. (Make sure you have their responses in writing, for later use if necessary.)

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Are there any utility easements on your deed? If so, who has the easements? That may indicate who owns the poles.
Are the poles still apparently in use? That is, are they still carrying/connected to wires? If they are, could you have an electrician scale the poles and use one of their sensors or meters to determine if they are still carrying any current or signal? And even if they are connected to wires, can you trace those wires back to some junction box or transformer, etc.? It may be that if you trace any wires, you will find that they are cut off at some point, and so obviously not in use. Or you may find on the junction box or transformer, etc. some evidence of who they do belong to.
If the poles are still in use, then taking them down would be very risky legally: you could potentially be sued by for all costs arising out of taking down the poles and also any disruption of service you thereby cause--potentially, a very large amount.
On the other hand, if you can confirm that the poles are not in use--e.g. no wires; or wires on them, but those wires are not connected to anything; etc.--then you can take them down with comparatively little risk: the most exposure you should have, if anyone does try to later claim they are their poles, would be the cost of the poles themselves. Based on what you have written, it is very unlikely someone would appear to claim out-of-use poles; and it would be very difficult for the electri/phone company or village itself to press any claim against you if they later discover these were their poles, after first telling you that these are not their poles. (Make sure you have their responses in writing, for later use if necessary.)


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