When is the City of Alexandria Liable? Part Two

As you can imagine, the thread on our neighborhood listserv regarding what and when the City of Alexandria is liable for homeowner damages was quite lively.

The general consensus seems to be that the first response of the city is NO but that patience and persistence often win out.  One neighbor wrote (I paraphrase): about four years ago, the city allowed a private contractor to bore holes underneath the sidewalks  to lay fiber optic cable. In the process, they broke 80 yr. old clay sewer pipes that worked great.

The damage resulted in sewage backing up to my house and causing $14,000 worth of damage.  I fought it tooth and nail. It took close to a year, but the city finally leaned on the contractor’s insurance company to cover the damage. It seemed the city attorneys first response to every problem like this is to push it back on the homeowner. I was relentless and threatened to get the local newspaper to write about it.

It was only then that the city attorney relented and agreed to lean on the contractor to get his insurance to pay.  You just have to document everything with photos and memos and continue to press the city council and city attorney so they know you are serious. 

From another resident: a garbage truck hit my parked vehicle and they (the city) tried to tell me it was my fault.

Interestingly, the one respondent who sided with the city on the issue of the tree damage was an insurance agent.  This neighbor filed with her auto insurance and then asked the city to conduct regular inspections of the tree, which they did.

Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer here except that the City responds on a case-by-case basis.

My non-attorney advice –

  • call the city arborist to inspect any trees in front of your house
  • review your homeowner and auto insurance policies
  • pick your battles.

Have a story you’d like to share about dealing with the city?  Let me hear from you.

Michael