Cases involving water damage from a neighbor require individual considerations. If it is from 'natural' causes and not something was done intentionally to damage your yard, it might not be anything you can do in a courtroom. However, in some cases, you might intervene. Three rules of liability govern the debate of what is liable and what isn't.
Reasonable Use Rule
Simply stated, if a neighbor changes the property, and causes surface water to accumulate on your land; the neighbor will be responsible for the alteration's damages to your property if the change was unreasonable. Unreasonable can be deemed under several factors:
- Importance of the alteration supplied water to a beloved flower bed, but more water flowed onto your area.
- The neighbor's 'run-off' may cause you to reseed your lawn every year. Did it really help the neighbor's property value?
- A neighbor might have placed a drainage pipe in the yard to remove water from the home's basement. It improved the neighbor's property but flooded your yard.
The 'Common Enemy'
Rainwater is the common enemy because it causes damage to property without a specific reason. In other words, even if you live on lower ground, and the neighbor tried to divert the water from a higher level of property; you are responsible for the damage. You have to fend for yourself.
Lower landowners in several states including New York, the District of Columbia, and Montana go by the common enemy ruling.
An individual is responsible for altering the flow of surface water if it harms or damages another person's property. In essence, this makes property owners on a higher ground level responsible for changes in patterns of run-off water. Some states, such as California, have modified this ruling and require a judge to decide from the evidence.
Surface water collects, and it must naturally have space to go when there are sporadic downpours of additional rain accumulation. It is not the fault of your neighbor when this happens unless new landscaping has been added to the property. If the changes cause damage to your property, you can receive compensation for the losses.
It is best to seek rulings in the area where you live before you attempt to make a court case out of your situation. It may not have the outcome you expect if you are the one living on the lower particle of land. For more information, talk to a professional like Tupper & Adams.