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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    2

    Default Neighbor Threatens to Sue Over Water Runoff

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: California

    I have a neighbor who is threatening to sue me if I don't take certain actions to remedy a problem he has with water leaking into his structure.

    His structure is abutted up to the property line which is somewhat downhill and 6-8 inches below my yard. His roof drains in the direction of my property (which is not problem) and my detached garage which is 4' from his structure drains in the direction of his property (as does all water, since his structure is downhill from my yard)

    In the past, he has been reluctant to install gutters on his home despite the fact that runoff from his home was dropping water in the very spot where water was entering his home. He installed the gutters 2-3 years ago, but they clog frequently. I estimate that the greater problem is ability of the rear wall of his home to keep water out, and he must take action to reinforce the structure at a cost to him. Also, the gutters must be kept clean. He disputes all of this and claims it is my fault.

    Can I be held liable for runoff from my structures and property if his property is downhill from mine, a condition that existed long before either of us moved in to these 70+ yr old homes?

    Thanks,
    Benzy

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    1,995

    Default Re: Neighbor Threatens to Sue Over Water Runoff

    Quote Quoting benzy
    View Post
    My question involves real estate located in the State of: California

    I have a neighbor who is threatening to sue me if I don't take certain actions to remedy a problem he has with water leaking into his structure.

    His structure is abutted up to the property line which is somewhat downhill and 6-8 inches below my yard. His roof drains in the direction of my property (which is not problem) and my detached garage which is 4' from his structure drains in the direction of his property (as does all water, since his structure is downhill from my yard)

    In the past, he has been reluctant to install gutters on his home despite the fact that runoff from his home was dropping water in the very spot where water was entering his home. He installed the gutters 2-3 years ago, but they clog frequently. I estimate that the greater problem is ability of the rear wall of his home to keep water out, and he must take action to reinforce the structure at a cost to him. Also, the gutters must be kept clean. He disputes all of this and claims it is my fault.

    Can I be held liable for runoff from my structures and property if his property is downhill from mine, a condition that existed long before either of us moved in to these 70+ yr old homes?

    Thanks,
    Benzy
    Generally speaking laws prohibit the flow of water from one property to another, and if water flows from one property to the next, the owner receiving the water can sue the one where the water originate.

    I owned a rental that is on a downward slope, from right to left. All of the properties have a retaining wall, to prevent water from the neighbor on the right to flow to the left. All of us have to maintain the walls.

    I had two friends who tried to get permits, in one case to contruct a concrete driveway, and another to expand his, near the property line, and because driveways are normally arched up for water to flow off, both permits were turned down because the result would be water flowing onto the neighbor's property.

    One friend gave up on the driveway because building a separation barrier was not worth it, and unworkable as it get in the way on the boundary line. He opted instead for a gravel driveway, which wasn't his choice, but absorbs rainwater.

    As to the neighbors gutters spilling water onto his own house, that does not violate the law. But water flow from your property does raise legal issues.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Neighbor Threatens to Sue Over Water Runoff

    Thanks for the reply, SChinFChin. Perhaps I should in fact contact a lawyer since I am receiving contradictory information from the internet. Many advice articles (Nolo, etc) claim that if I am intentionally diverting water to a neighbor's property then I may be liable for damage. But they also state that the natural movement of water that is of no consequence to my actions, and damage cause by the natural flow of water must be negated by the person down stream so to speak.

    I suppose the question is whether or not the runoff from my house and the subsequent flow of that water down hill to his property is my fault. Especially considering that this is a 100 year old neighborhood with no storm drains (i.e, homes rely on the natural flow of water to clear runoff).

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    2,332

    Default Re: Neighbor Threatens to Sue Over Water Runoff

    Water naturally flows from one property to another, as it has for eons. That in itself does not create a liability.

    When one takes significant steps which increase the flow beyond that which is natural towards an adjoining property in the absence of a flowage easement, there is an actionable trespass in many instances.

    The 50 year, 100 year, 500 year flood is outside of normal and does not normally attach additional liability to you.

    If your neighbor sues you, he will be required to meet the burden of proof regarding evidence of your supposed negligence, in addition to proof of actual monetary damages. I am only guessing, but I think he is into a five figure expense at that point.

    As you say, the neighborhood runoff has been in place for 70-100 years.

    I don't think anything is going to come of this. Your neighbor will need an attorney to get things started and will probably be paying a retainer up front which will exceed his cost to solve his drainage problem.

    I am not an attorney as is well known. If you find that you need an attorney, try to find one who is at least as up to speed as those who have replied. You don't need to be paying an hourly fee to an attorney to get educated just up to the point that he/she is able to equal the advice you can get on the internet pro bono.

    Good Luck!

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