Water Damage and Neighbor Disputes

Civil Litigation, Property Owners

Disputes between neighbors can arise when one or both of the property owners experience water damage. Water damage can result from either natural or artificial causes, and may include damaged retaining walls, faulty drainage mechanisms and run-off from excess water. Determining responsibility for the water damage is often made on a case by case basis and varies among states. When a court concludes that one party is responsible for water damage on a neighboring property, the injured party may receive compensation for repair costs and associated expenses related to temporary relocation and medical issues.

The rule in most states is that a property owner is not responsible for damage resulting from the physical state of the land and natural rainwaters. Thus, if your land slopes in the direction of your neighbor and results in water accumulation in your neighbor’s yard, you cannot be held liable for resulting damages. However, if you deliberately altered your property in a manner that causes excess run-off in a neighboring property, then you might be liable depending on your state’s law.

Many states apply a reasonableness test to assess liability. This standard asks whether the modification that caused damage to the neighboring property was unreasonable in nature and whether such alteration caused the flow of water to be artificially directed toward another property. Reasonableness may be determined by assessing the nature and necessity of the alteration, and whether damage was foreseeable by the action. Other states implement the common enemy rule, which treats water runoff as an anticipated harm and places the onus on property owners to take measures to avoid water damage to their own property so long as those measures are not deemed unusual or extraordinary. In contrast, some states place liability on the property owner causing the surface runoff, but require that both parties act reasonably under the circumstances.

Georgia has statutes addressing situations in which an artificial structure or activity has altered the flow of water onto a neighboring property. In general, the law provides that one property owner is not permitted to collect water and allow it to run off in the direction of a neighboring property in a manner that differs from the natural and anticipated flow of the water onto the property. The statute provides that activities that result in the disruption of the natural flow of water cannot be undertaken without obtaining a permit from local authorities or notifying authorities of the intent to do so.

The experienced team of attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, P.C. can help you litigate your real estate claims. Contact Mark Weinstein and his colleagues at (770) 888-7707 or visit them at https://www.markweinsteinlaw.com to find out how they can advise you.

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