Living in a densely populated area can be pretty challenging. You have to deal with a plethora of complex problems that arise due to people in your neighborhood. There are multiple regulations to help you sort out such issues efficiently. With that in mind, do you know what to do when your neighbors’ gutter drains on your property?
Before involving yourself in complex and costly legal proceedings, it is always good to resolve the issue with a discussion. Any social association of the society in which you live can also help you resolve the issue. However, you can also contact a lawyer for legal proceedings if the solutions mentioned above do not work.
Water runoff from neighbors is not a new problem. People have been experiencing it for decades. This blog aims to help you deal with these drainage issues beyond pointing out who is responsible for the problem. Stay tuned to find out whether or not your neighbors are allowed to drain water on your property by law.
Can Your Neighbor Drain Water on Your Property?
The rules regarding the natural flow of water drainage vary from state to state. In general, a neighbor is not responsible for the damages caused by the natural flow of drainage. If your location’s prevailing rain conditions and geography cause rainwater to accumulate on your property, no one is to blame.
However, any neighbor in your vicinity has the right to alter the natural flow of rainwater in any way. If your neighbor has modified their property structure, resulting in more drainage onto yours, you can claim damages depending on state laws.
Laws Regarding the Illegal Drainage of Gutter on One’s Property
Historically, two laws have regulated issues regarding the illegal drainage of gutters on one’s neighbors’ property. These laws are “common enemy rule” and “civil law.” However, with the passage of time and massive increase in the population, a new rule, called the “rule of reasonable use” was implemented.
Let’s discuss these rules and regulations in detail.
Common Enemy Rule
This rule considers rainwater and other natural water flow a common enemy of homeowners as everyone in the community has equal chances of being affected by the natural water resources.
According to this rule, all landowners have the legal right to take necessary steps to protect their properties. They can build ditches or dikes to save their parcels. In short, everyone is required to preserve one’s property by any means. All in all, this law allows you to take whatever steps you may take to prevent property damage due to water runoff.
According to the common enemy rule, there are no legal consequences for protecting one’s property from water runoff and other means of surface water.
In other words, if a neighbor modifies their property in such a way that it increases the water flow to your house, you can do nothing to prevent the issue. As this rule allows homeowners to protect their property from surface water, they have every right to take whatever steps it takes to safeguard their properties.
Among many states, the common enemy rule is one of the oldest ones still in effect. However, some states have made this law more flexible to suit the changing dynamics of society.
More specifically, in some states, you can now file a claim for property damage against your neighbors if you prove negligence on their part.
Civil Law Rule
The common enemy rule allows all property owners to take the necessary steps to save their own properties without considering the damages done to the neighboring parcels. As a result, people need a better law that provides a comprehensive solution for everyone without promoting a selfish attitude.
To that end, many U.S. states have adopted a Civil Law Rule that advocates the uninterrupted flow of natural water. In some cases, it is also referred to as the Natural Flow Rule.
According to this law, no one can change the surface water flow by altering their property layout. Consequently, landowners who attempt to change the natural flow of water are responsible for any damages caused to private properties or others’ lands.
However, some states have modified this rule to provide greater flexibility and address the community members’ varying needs across many regions.
According to the revised civil law, property owners can now bring reasonable changes to their property layout to safeguard their lands and properties from water runoff. These changes might affect their neighbors’ natural water flow. As a result, this rule also allows the affected neighbors to change their properties’ layouts to avoid damages and harm inflicted by an increased water flow.
However, the court will hold all those neighbors liable for any possible damage if the change in property setup or layout of the land is deemed unreasonable. All of this brings us to a more exciting law that caters to many complex issues comprehensively.
Law of Reasonable Use
The law of reasonable use provides a wholesome approach to this issue. Many U.S. states have adopted this law to deal with the illegal drainage of gutters on a neighbor’s property.
According to this law, property owners can change the layout of their lands or properties to reduce the harm caused by water runoff or rainwater. However, they have to do everything within a set of reasonable limits. Indeed, private property owners can be involved in multiple legal issues due to layout changes beyond rational justifications.
That is why you need to analyze the reasoning of your neighbor before filing a lawsuit against them. Ensure that you collect all the evidence and proof that your neighbors have changed the natural water flow by introducing unnecessary changes to their lands.
You might lose the case if your neighbor’s actions were within the set limits. More specifically, in such a case, your neighbor will not be held responsible for any claim if any of their alterations do not change the natural water flow.
States that follow the law of reasonable use analyze multiple factors before making any decision. The court will determine the magnitude of the neighbor’s alteration and the rationale behind their adjustment of the property’s layout. You may end up losing your case if the neighbor successfully proves their point in court.
That is why a few things can help you in this regard. For example, you should consider the following suggestions before rushing to an attorney to file a lawsuit against your neighbor.
How to Deal with Your Neighbors’ Water Runoff?
First of all, you must understand the costs associated with the legal proceedings. The legal settlement of the issue should be your last resort as it involves many complex things, from paying a hefty consultation fee to the lawyer to managing time for proceedings and many things in between.
That is why we always recommend our readers to settle the issues with a discussion and understanding.
Discussing the Issue with Them
You can talk to your neighbor regarding the illegitimate drainage of their gutter on your property. Try to behave in a convincing way to avoid any potential confrontation. You may be able to explain to your neighbor how their gutters are damaging your property.
You might be able to convince your neighbor by using formal and conversational language. Doing so means that you won’t have to go look for another solution to the problem, as the neighbor will resolve it once they get your point.
Also, you could come up with a joint solution to effectively drain surface water. In this way, neither you nor your neighbor will have any grievances against each other.
Nonetheless, things don’t always go as planned. There is still a possibility that your neighbor may not understand what you are trying to convey and take no action to restore the natural arrangement of their property. That is why you should have a second option in mind.
Consulting with the Community’s Association
Alternatively, you can talk to the society’s association or community members’ association to take necessary action in this regard. Before approaching the association, it is always best to understand the dynamics of the problem.
That is why you must prepare yourself well before interacting with your neighbor or any community association. You will more likely be heard if you take this approach.
Hiring an Architect
Since legal proceedings are expensive, we emphasize solutions that do not require you to file lawsuits. One cost-effective solution to neighbor’s gutter drainage on your property is hiring an architect to assess the possible solutions.
They may suggest you build a yard near the property line for the effective prevention of excessive flow. If the water flow is not excessive and requires a medium solution, an architect can also suggest a post-hole digger.
In many cases, people got away with this problem by spending money that prevented the excessive water flow into their properties. As a result, they saved thousands of dollars in legal consultation fees.
Likewise, you should also consult an architect to see if there is any cost-effective, timely solution to this excessive drainage issue. You can sort out an inexpensive yet effective solution if luck is on your side.
If it’s your first time to own a yard, there are a lot of things that you need to know if you want to keep it green and healthy. From regular mowing and watering to aerating the soil once in a while, you have quite a bit of new chores that you need to do. To help you with this task, here is our complete guide to yard maintenance for new homeowners.
Can Your Neighbor’s Guttering Overhang Your Property?
The law does not permit the overhanging of guttering beyond one’s property line as it somehow violates the air rights of neighbors. Additionally, it is immoral to use anyone’s property without proper permission. That is why staying within the boundaries of one’s own parcel is always the best idea.
One thing that you need to understand is the difference between property lines and setback rules. In the U.S., you will find a typical setback distance of about 20 feet across states. In other words, there should be at least 20 feet between the property line and the road. Generally, you might be given relaxation for a foot or two of a roof or gutter overhanging.
However, you can contact the person living in the adjacent building to further discuss the issue with them. You will not have any problem with guttering overhanging if they allow you to go for it. To avoid complications, you must have the neighbor’s written consent, duly signed.
You can also contact the municipality or nearest county office to see how they can help you in this regard. Rules regarding the setback limits and property lines tend to vary across states. Thus, such offices can let you know if what you plan to do is allowed by law.
What If You Share a Common Drain Pipe?
In densely populated areas, people usually have common drain pipes that transport waste to the nearby treatment facilities. These pipes are generally located over the boundary lines of your property for the convenience of neighbors.
Not only that, but some people also share a water supply pipe with their neighbors. This pipe brings fresh drinking water to your home and the rest of the surrounding houses. In that case, both you and your neighbor will be receiving water from the same source. The rules regarding the treatment of shared water supply pipes are generally similar to those concerning the shared drainage pipes.
Fixing Common Drain Blockages
In the past, homeowners paid for any drain blockages, regardless of who was responsible for such carelessness. However, things have changed. Now, you only pay for the maintenance and fixing of drainage lines within your property. Thus, each individual must pay for the share of drainage pipes that fall within their boundaries.
Put simply, you will have to make arrangements for fixing the drainage pipe if it stopped working within your property. You can call a professional to get the job done.
Similarly, if the water supply pipe gets damaged within your property’s boundaries, you are to make arrangements to fix the issue. Nonetheless, you can share the expenses of the repairs in case of shared supply pipes. There must be an agreement stating the percentage of shared costs in a common supply line.
You can ask the previous owner of the property for the agreement details if you are a new resident.
Who Is Responsible for Rainwater Runoff?
It is challenging to state the exact jurisdiction in your state regarding the responsibility for rainwater runoff as the law varies from state to state. Generally, careless landowners are charged for any damage caused to the property because of the unreasonable use of the land.
However, the court looks into several things to give out a judgment regarding this issue. The honorable judges ascertain the reasonableness of land usage by the parties. To make their decision, they highlight several factors to determine who acted unreasonably.
Nonetheless, if the lower owner fails to show reasonable use of the property, they cannot claim damages.
What to Expect if Your Neighbor Is Found Responsible for Rainwater Runoff?
If you successfully prove your neighbor’s responsibility for the poor handling of the rainwater runoff, you can expect the following things:
- Payment for the repairs and replacement of the items damaged by the water.
- A claim for the physical and psychological distress caused by the water overflow.
- Compensation for medical expenses resulting from damages caused by the water.
- Other related expenses, such as the accommodations expenses involved if you cannot stay at your home due to an excessive water flow.
Do Homeowners Have Insurance that Protects Them from Excessive Drainage Failures?
Multiple insurance products can help you in this regard. These insurance contracts cover damages based on the source of water that enters your house. For instance, you will have to buy flood insurance if you fear the excessive failure of your neighbor’s gutter drains that can damage your property.
On the contrary, if you want to cover your property against any damages caused by water within your home, you will need a different insurance package.
However, there are multiple things to consider if your neighbors’ actions caused the problem. You may contact the neighbor’s insurance company for the damages caused by them if they benefit from such coverage for water-related damages. In some situations, insurance companies assist owners who have suffered damages directly.
All in all, subscribing to an insurance plan is another effective way of safeguarding one’s property against any damages caused by water. However, it is pertinent to mention that you should discuss the coverage of any insurance product in detail before making a purchase.
Neighborhoods are not always peaceful and there are a couple of things that can lead to issues and disagreements with your neighbors, one of which is their gutter draining on your property. Getting rid of your neighbors’ gutter drain on your property is not easy. You can always take the legal road and file an official complaint against them, or you can try to resolve the issue through communication.
No one can hold your neighbor responsible if their gutter naturally drains on your property. Your neighbor, however, is liable for damages if they negligently divert the water flow toward your property. Familiarize yourself with your local laws and regulations to know what your rights are and what you are entitled to when it comes to this situation. Also, as a safety precaution, having insurance coverage ensures that your home is protected against water damage.