Can I Remove Utility Flags In My Yard: Is this Illegal?

can I remove utility flags in my yard

Seeing colorful flags in your yard can be surprising – and maybe at times, frustrating, especially if you like to maintain a beautiful, pristine yard. But if it happens to you, you should know that it means someone is planning to turn it into an excavation site. At this point you might start to wonder, “Can I remove utility flags in my yard?”

In general, you should not remove utility flags in your yard. Utility flags are placed to avoid any disturbances or accidents in the area while utility work is ongoing. Give the utility flag company a call first to inquire about their presence, and whether or not it’s safe to remove them.

Utility companies usually place flags to mark underground facilities for projects like repair and maintenance. As you spot those flags, you may not be sure what to do or what they mean.

Never fear, because in this article, we’re going to go over what utility flags are, what the different color utility flags mean, as well as what you can do as the property owner.

Here’s a Quick Pro Tip!

While you can’t really prevent utility companies from doing their jobs, it’s good to know who is setting foot on your property and what they’re doing.

Having a decent security system like a Ring Video Doorbell or Outdoor Security Cameras (both on Amazon) is a smart thing to do.

Legal Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as legal advice or acted upon as such. You should always consult with an attorney or legal professional before taking any action.

Why Are There Flags On My Lawn?

There are a few important reasons why there are flags on your lawn. The first one is that there will be an excavation project planned in the spot where the flags are. Flags can be used to mark even simple digging projects like installing clothesline or repair and maintenance projects such as repairing the fire hydrant nearby.

The other reason why there are flags on your lawn is that there is a bigger excavation project planned in your area. These projects involve underground facilities that need to be protected. The state requires utility companies and their subcontractors to locate and mark where underground lines are buried. 

Digging on a spot without knowing beforehand the location of underground utility lines can be risky. If the utility flags are not in place, workers can just dig and end up damaging underground lines. This will result in everyday inconveniences that can affect not only you but also other people in the community.

You may panic as someone just came to your property to put up the marking flags. One thing to note is that utility companies do have the right to come onto your property, even without permission.

But just because there are flags on your lawn it doesn’t always mean the utility company is going to start digging up your yard. It could be that individuals or companies calling in the dig request can’t provide the exact location to mark. As a result, they will give an estimate, which includes your property.

What Do The Colored Utility Flags Mean?

When you see flags, you not only tend to question what it is and what purpose it serves but also what the different colors are. Utility color flags help workers who carry out the digging identify which utility line is running under the marked spots. The colors follow the Uniform Color Code set by the American Public Works Association.

Why Are There Little Yellow Flags On My Lawn?

If you see yellow flags across your yard, it means that there will be a planned work involving natural gas lines. The yellow flags will help identify contractors that a gas line is on that spot. That way, contractors will not dig it up.

For instance, a water company may ask to have that area marked with yellow flags so that when there is an installation, repair, or maintenance on the water lines, the marked spot won’t be touched.

It’s vital to avoid the spot marked with the yellow flags. Since they are placed to mark gas lines, removing them will defeat the purpose of protecting the lines. And a damaged gas line can cause soil contamination and even explosion.

Why Are Those White Flags In My Yard?

White flags usually mark the area where there is a proposed excavation. They are often placed in the city. If you see plenty of white flags wrapped around an area, that should give you an idea of how big the project is. Removing these flags could disrupt any project planned in the area.

What Are The Green Flags In My Yard?

Green flags are put up to mark drain lines and sewers. Be mindful of these flags; you may not like seeing green flags on your yard but don’t consider removing them. Sewer lines need to be preserved if there are in-ground projects. Damaging this line could release poisonous gases and may cause a flood in the neighborhood.

Other Colors

Have you ever wondered about orange flags? If you’re asking, what color will CATV flags in my yard or at&T flags in my yard be, then the answer is orange. This color is used for communication systems, TV cables and alarm lines.

Placing orange flags means companies should be careful about digging this area, especially when people are expecting a big game on TV.

Other colors to watch out for include:

  • Red -it is the most common color and it’s used to mark electric utilities or power lines Marking an area with red will help to avoid a power outage that can affect the whole neighborhood.
  • Blue – Water, slurry, and irrigation lines. Usually, this involves potable water. If the line is damaged, the neighborhood could experience a flood or that water will not be safe for drinking for days.
  • Pink – this color is used as temporary survey markings. As surveyors measure the area, they put up pink flags to mark their work. Pink can also be used to mark unknown utility lines.

Is It Illegal To Remove Utility Flags

You may be so tempted to remove utility color flags from your yard. You may have no idea what it is and you just see it as something that ruins the overall aesthetics of your yard. But keep in mind that removing these flags are a big no-no. In most cases, it is illegal to tamper with these markings.

Depending on the state you’re in, there should be a law that prohibits any person from removing or tampering with utility flags. Doing so could result in fines. In addition, you will be held responsible for damages to the utility. 

What To Do When You Accidentally Removed The Flags

Accidental removal of the flags is inevitable. You may have removed it before realizing its purpose. Children may also accidentally take those flags out. To children, those colorful flags could be very attractive. It can be very tempting to play with them or even remove them. 

If this happens, do not plant the flags to the ground as you may not know where they were exactly located. Instead, call 811 dig hotline, report what happened, and request for them to mark the utility lines again.

Who Should Remove Those Flags?

Technically, you shouldn’t be removing flags the moment you see them. These will help workers locate important marked spots. The only person who should be removing them is the one responsible for the placement of the flags. The removal usually happens when the job is done.

How Long Do You Have To Leave Utility Flags In My Yard?

In instances where you’ve seen the flag on your yard for 14 days without someone doing any work, you can remove them. Other states place a validity of the flags for 30 calendar days. If you’re unsure, a more helpful way to deal with this is to call 811. You can get more details as to who requested the placement by calling the hotline. 

You can speak with the operator at 811 and ask for the details about the project in your area. The operator should be able to provide the name of the company or individual who requested the dig and their contact information. You can then call the person or company and ask about the status of the project or if the flags are still necessary.

If you are unable to gather the information from the state 811, you can simply refer to the color of the flag. If you have blue flags, you can call the water company, and so on. Also, most flags bear the name of the company that placed them, so you should be able to see the contact information.

Conclusion

It’s expected of a property owner to be bothered by the sight of colorful flags in their yard. It’s even more frustrating to see people come to your yard and put up flags without permission.

However tempting it may be, one should not remove those flags. They are there for a purpose, which is to protect underground lines that may be damaged during digging. Digging works could involve installation, repair,and maintenance of underground lines. 

The flags won’t be there for long. They usually have a validity of 30 calendar days. In some, they are valid for only two weeks especially if you haven’t observed any activity. Generally, flags should not be taken off. Doing so is illegal and you could pay a fine. In cases where you accidentally removed it, it’s best to call 811 for help.