Better call Miss Utility first!
Yes, that familiar RE/MAX Presidential sign in your front yard is going to require a bit more effort (and spray paint) to install. The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) is turning up the heat on enforcement of the Virginia Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act which was enacted thirty years ago, and the lowly real estate sign is a prime suspect.
At the heart of the Act is that natural gas lines into homes have been installed without a minimum depth requirement. To make matters worse, older lines may not be as deep due to settlement of the ground over the years allowing some lines to be only 4”to 6” below the surface of the lawn. And, since most utility easements are in the front of a home coming in from the street, they are in the exact spot that most agents stick their signs in the ground.
Anytime there are incidents of damage to underground lines they are photographed and used as examples. Some of the lines are so shallow that your average homeowner could easily put a shovel into the line when digging up a new spring flower garden. As you can see in this photo, the gas line is next to the front porch pillar and marked as a line found just 2 inches deep… heck, my kids could have found this one!
In my 18 years of selling homes in Northern Virginia, I have not heard of anyone hitting an underground utility line when placing a real estate sign in someone’s front yard. But on the other hand, I have not thought about hitting anything other than rocks as I have pushed my sign into the lawn of a client’s home. So maybe this raised awareness of this issue is a good idea before anyone else gets really injured.
The consequence of non-compliance may be a gas explosion or a $2,500 fine, whichever you consider to be worse. To add to my listing activity checklist or sequence of events, I am now going to call Miss Utility at 811 to come out and mark your property before I place a for-sale sign in your yard. The guidelines say that I need to call at least 48 hours, excluding weekends, before doing any sign placement so they can do their work marking up your yard with yellow and orange spray paint .