Legal Advice from J. Byron Wyndham and Associates
I am often asked about the difference between buying property and living only in the mountains, and owning mountain property but living in a metropolitan area. Aside from the fresh air, bubbling streams, and beautiful mountain views, there are some other differences that people in the mountains take for granted, which visitors or part-time owners may not notice.
We have recently been enduring a terrible drought in Georgia. Virtually the whole state is under a watering ban that includes watering for yards, for washing cars, and for other personal purposes.
However, the ban does not apply to most of the mountain area of north Georgia. Why??
Most visitors are unaware that residents of the mountain areas in Georgia obtain their water from wells. We rely on the water table to supply us with water. Even though there may not be a government-issued watering ban, in times of drought wells can also be affected.
People moving to this area often just turn on the spigot, see that water comes out, and then they think no more about it. But when you buy a house or cabin in this area, it becomes apparent that water is to be handled differently from areas that have municipal or county sources for water. Wells are often shared.
When you buy real estate in the mountains, you need to ask about the water delivery method for the house or the lot.
You may purchase a lot that has its own well, which means that the owner does not have to pay for water but does have to pay for repairs in the well if the pump or water system fails. Many developments have a shared well system. The well system is often part of the Covenants for the development. As part of the Homeowners Association fees, the Community supplies the water for an annual fee to the home owner (or lot owner). If the well fails, the Homeowners Association moves to deal with it.
If there is a catastrophe, there may be a special assessment but at least you will be sharing, and defraying, the costs with others.
There may also be a shared well agreement with one or more neighbors. A “water agreement” is signed so that your neighbor would supply you water from his/her well in return for you paying a monthly water fee to the well owner. If a problem occurs, the type of problem and where it is located are the issues that determine the significance of the problem and who is responsible to pay for the repairs. The owner of the well is usually responsible for the pumping process and pumping system, but each member of the water agreement is responsible for the pipes once the pipes leave the well and pumping station.
When you buy land or developed property in the North Georgia Mountains, find out about the water system.
It is better to bother your real estate agent or your seller with lots of questions before you buy than to discover a problem after you’ve moved in. You need to know the water system, and you need to know the total cost!