Homeowners, Be Careful as You Plan Drainage Repair Projects
Water can cause serious property damage. A flooded basement can be expensive to fix. Collapsing retaining walls make a mess to your landscape. When neighbors cause water damage to your property, the legal issues can get murky. In most places, water runoff from your neighbor’s land generally isn’t their fault. The problem arises when your neighbor alters their property, such as landscape renovation, to change the amount of water that runs into your property, causing your Moraga foundation to need repair, for example. Three different types of liability cover how these disputes are generally handled.
Who Does Handle Disputes Over Drainage?
Dealing with neighbors isn’t always easy. Especially when their interests diverge with yours. An Orinda homeowner found himself facing over $200,000 in repairs to his home when neighbors diverted water from their own yards into his. The homeowner believes that the city should enforce the codes. The city believes the homeowner should sue the neighbors or use mediation to resolve the issue. The lesson? Be careful when installing a drainage system in Moraga or Orinda, because you could find yourself in a dispute with the city or your neighbors.
Civil Law Rule
Conversely, the civil law rule holds the upper landowner liable if they alter the natural flow of water. In California, the civil law rule has been modified to be more balanced between homeowners. Both homeowners are expected to take reasonable protections to protect their own property.
In the majority of cases, if you want to prevail over your neighbor who caused damage to your home, you will need to show that your neighbor did something “unreasonable.” Judges view reasonableness according to the facts in your case. There really isn’t a checklist. To prove your neighbor is liable for your damages, you may have to show that the damage was foreseeable during their drainage repair project or that the damage was extensive.
Common Enemy Rule
Lower landowners are expected to protect their own property. If your neighbor diverts water to protect his own home, which causes damage to your home, this neighbor may not be liable for damage. It’s called the common enemy rule. You have the responsibility to take steps to protect your home.