Oregon Summer 2018

Table of Contents

The worst bill is the one you don’t see coming. Here enters the new phenomena of local government cost shifting..

If you’re a homeowner, you might be surprised at some of the things that can land on your doorstep.

Let’s talk about the sidewalks in front of your house.

You didn’t install them; they are the city’s right?

Well, yes. And no. The city installed them and they are considered a public accommodation. As such, you are not permitted to block off your sidewalk and build a shed on it, or a bike rack, or a permanent lemonade stand. You have no specific rights to the use of this sidewalk. You can’t sell it, lease it, or otherwise exercise any ownership rights to it. However, accompanying this general lack of Rights is a responsibility: The responsibility to repair it should it crack, buckle or sink.

And, if someone trips on it and is injured, you could also be sued if it can be proven that you knew the sidewalk was in hazardous condition and did nothing about it.

But there are worse things than buckled sidewalks.

What about buckled sewer lines? Understandably, if the problem is located under your front lawn, it’s your responsibility. This has always been the case, but unless the line is a colossal failure, most folks would not know if their line was leaking, if there were root intrusion or if part of the line had settled.

But a few years ago, someone invented tiny cameras that, when extended into the sewer line, show every possible defect in places previously invisible to homeowners or would-be homeowners. (Yes, now You Too can take a virtual tour through your pipes! It’s like Disneyland’s It’s a Small World, only cheaper… and grosser.)

Once Realtors discovered this tool, it became a routine part of purchase transactions. Homeowners have been on the hook most of the time, even for minor sagging in lines that didn’t really affect operation. But cities started getting calls, too, as cameras found damage under city streets. Suddenly, the honey-do list for cities blossomed as well.

Beaverton’s answer to the problem was to shirk their portion of responsibility and simply state that it is Not Responsible. City officials made it a homeowner’s responsibility to repair or replace even those lines under the public streets – all the way to the main in the middle of the street. Now, instead of a job that could cost a maximum of $2500, you now have bills at $10k-$15k, involving cash bonds that the city holds for 6 months to a Year After a replacement job is complete – just to make sure nothing leaks.

Other cities are also considering shirking their duties and hanging the aging laterals around homeowners’ necks. Stay tuned for more “cost-shifting” potentially coming to a city near you!

Meanwhile, Newberg is taking a different approach – potentially, a scarier one.

It’s patrolling for sewer problems on private property and then requiring homeowners to fix discovered issues within 90 days. Yes, they are taking their Small World Tour to Your Front Yard and chances are, you won’t even know it’s happening.

And since – chances are – you won’t be in the midst of selling your house when the bill comes due, you won’t have sale proceeds to cushion the cost. There is financial help available, but only for those households making less than $54,856 per year.

McMinnville is on a similar path. It is working on replacing its own aging system, but when the fixit show comes to your neighborhood, the city will check your laterals, too, and if they find them deficient, well, expect to receive notification that your lateral must be repaired or replaced. McMinnville has instituted a loan program for homeowners who need it, but it won’t be low interest. The good news is, the work in McMinnville is proceeding slowly, so maybe they won’t get to your neighborhood until later – after you win the lottery!

If it helps to know, you’re not alone! Most cities have aging sewer lines and are looking for homeowner help in replacing them.

Feel better?

Didn’t think so.

continued below...

Refer-a-Friend Rewards Program

Picture of Lisa Baker
Lisa Baker

Principal Broker | REALTOR
RE/MAX Equity Group

It’s time for something nice to arrive in your mailbox. Starbucks coffee, Subway sandwiches or dinner at Red Robin. Yes! It could happen to YOU!

Just refer your friends to me and I’ll not only take great care of them as they shop for a house or market their houses with me, but I will send You a gift card for something delicious, too!

Is that a great deal or what?!

Delegating the Yard Work

So it’s time to tackle the yard—plant some shrubs and trees, maybe a retaining wall or a water feature — and make it look Awesome — and you think to yourself:

Let’s get someone else to do it!

A laudable plan, but beware – not all landscapers are equal in service, talent and know-how and what your landscaper does not Know-How to do may not become apparent until years later and by then, he or she is long gone and your troubles have just begun.

Fear mongering, am I?

Consider the case of the landscape that looks beautiful in its first year, and even in the second. But soon enough, it becomes clear that the plants have a mind of their own. Spreading underground, over-ground, under fences, wrapping themselves around innocent flowers and strangling them. You try control methods: light pruning to heavy pruning to hacking wildly with an ax. Still, it comes back, only now, it’s vined its way between fence slats and crawled under, yes, the siding. You consider poison. For the landscaper.

“Invasive” is a fancy garden term that means the plant is strong that it can’t be stopped short of grenades’ and flame throwers.

Take bamboo. Fast growing, creates a fantastic screen between properties. It also spreads, invisible, underground, popping up where you least expect it. A few years ago, touring a Dundee house for sale, we spied a bamboo shoot – more tough than tender – coming out of an electrical outlet. Not all bamboos are invasive, but a good landscaper knows which is which. Similar damages are common with wisteria, which often adorns trellises and verandas but likes to bully its way behind siding and under roof shingles.

Trees are a common problem. Landscapers – especially those assigned to large subdivisions – will at times choose trees that wholesalers offer at low prices, not considering the growth habit of those they choose. Trees with shallow, lateral-habit root systems buckle walkways, sidewalks (a homeowner’s responsibility in most cases) and most expensively, foundations. Watch for Quaking Aspen, Sweet Gum, White Birch, and sometimes, even Maples.

Willows like to go where no one else likes to go: The sewer. Water-seeking, a willow’s roots will invade sewer pipes, filing pipes with roots and causing obstructions. If you have an old sewer lateral And a willow, well, now may be a good time for a sewer scope.

When in doubt about what you have, take a branch with leaves intact to the local OSU Extension Office for identification. Or, in a pinch, try:

Common Trees of the Pacific Northwest  and run through the questions to identify your tree.

Lastly, landscapers who install walkways and stone pathways in summer sometimes don’t take into consideration the natural drainage patterns of a property, and when the rains come, charming pathways are de-stabilized and patios sink.

The answer to it all is not for you to become an expert in landscaping but to find someone who has more than a business card and a truck full of plants. What you’re looking for is Years – someone who’s already made those mistakes on Someone’s Else’s property and is now seen it all, done it all, and is ready to make your yard the Shangri-La you always knew it could be.

Truth to Power

Uh oh…3 pm and your cell phone is out of juice. If you use navigators or other power-hungry apps, you’re no stranger to the low-battery warning on your phone. Or the frequency with which it appears when you’re in traffic and need a detour, or you’re in the middle of nowhere and Need that Navigator.

It’s time for Phone Suit Elite. Replacing your cell phone cover, your suit always has you covered with extra battery power when you need it most. Which is, face it, always!

Works on Android and iPhone, of course.

What about storage space? Try the Mophie Space Pack, which delivers both extra battery power And 32 to 64 MB storage so you don’t have to suddenly jettison photos in order to video your child’s first steps.