help! neighbor causing 12' stream of water in my yard

jjackieApril 3, 2006


I live in a house I bought 4yrs ago. It is over 30yrs old.

My neighbor has had his water draining into my yard over the

past 3 yrs (and the 30 yrs b4 I got here)causing 12' streams of water thru my back yard. Last summer I told him to reroute his drainage pipe from flowing into my back yard to the streets drainage ditch in front of his house. After several months he finally did but now I and still stuck with the damage that has occured from him doing this and/or the previous owner. Does anyone know if I have any rights to get him to fix the grade in my back yard to correct the

problem from the years of damage. I am installing a pool in

the next few months and I need to get this taken care of. Has anyone had this problem or similar and had any luck getting the leaky neighbor to correct his ways?? Thanks for any and all information. Suggestions on how to fix by my self would be appreciated as well. I am thinking about a berm?? or trying to regrade from the house down..... THANKS!!

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This sounds like a legal question. I am not a lawyer but I know a little about this because I was in a similar situation and I have worked in real estate a long time. I don't think you will be able to recover any damages regarding the damage to your landscape, here's why:

1. You purchased a property in which this problem already existed for 30 years. I am certain the damage did not just suddenly begin in the last 4 years you have lived there. A home inspector should have pointed this problem out to you and you could have considered costs needed to correct the problem which you should have negotiated in your purchase price.

2. I don't know, maybe you have some recourse with your home inspector for these costs if your home and property was inspected and you were not told. Your home inspection should be in writing. That said, it is 4 years later and this should have been addressed with the home inspector the first year you were there. I don't know what the statute of limitations are in your area for this.

3. Consider yourself fortunate that your neighbor corrected the problem on his side, at no expense to you. Where I live (not far from you) you are allowed to drain water right up to the property line. The grade of the neighbor's property is their responsibility, and if it is lower than your property, then that person would want to install a drain, ditch, or something similar to redirect water flow. All water flows from high to low (obviously) and the person with the lowest property, unfortunately, is going to pay for it. In general, that's usually negotiated in the sales price. Most of the time, neighbors are neighborly and correct the problem, like yours did, however they are not legally obligated to do so.

It sounds like your neighbor did the right thing. I'm not sure if going to war with your neighbor will help you, especially when I think you stand a very good chance of loosing. If you win or loose, you still need to live next door to this neighbor. There is also the other neighbors to think about, I don't know what their relationships are like or how big your town is. It's just something practical for you to think about.

Regarding your building a berm. This would depend on what your goal is and how much you want to spend. You might find it more cost effective to dig a ditch to the street, removing dirt rather than bringing more in to create the berm. That said, you could build a berm but you said you had 12' (12 foot) of water. I'm not sure if that's 12' deep or wide. It would need to be quite a large berm to redirect the water to the street depending on water volume. You should also think about what you would like to plant on the berm and if it could tolerate standing water if there is any. A berm could help provide you with privacy and could help keep out some noises if you have any. If noise is not an issue, you may be able to dig a good sized deep ditch, at a strong pitch, to the drainage ditch at the street. A berm could be pretty but you could also line the ditch with rocks which could be pretty as well. The rocks are a good option if you don't want to mow or weed whack in there.

If you're willing to spend a little, you could do a combination of berms and ditches, or even french drains, with piping to the drainage ditch on the street. You have several options.

Now, all of this said, you also must find out what your local building inspector says about all this because your code may call for certain setbacks from your neighbor's property for building a berm or the drainage ditch. In my area, we cannot change the original grade of the land in any way without submitting a plan first. You should know this first so as not to incur extra expenses for yourself.

Regrading from the house down is a good idea and will improve on the health and longevity of your home. You should speak with your local building inspector about this and any permits you may need so as not to incur fines. Depending on how extensive your project is, the building inspector may want to see a drainage plan. Keep in mind that sometimes an improvement you may make on your property may change or affect the drainage or water flow to your neighbor's property. This can be a good or bad thing. It all depends on your situation.

I hope this is helpful and I wish you the best of luck on your pool!


    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 1:11PM
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Jackie, I had the same problem. I still can't believe that it is acceptable for someone to flood out their neighbor's property. I didn't know what to do either, it was frustrating and heart-breaking. The neighbor wouldn't do anything to fix the problem and I didn't get anywhere with the city. It wasn't until we had a "100 year storm" that the city decided to fix drainage problems in our area when they were tearing up the road to replace storm drains.

We now have a six foot deep hole (or yard drain) in the back corner that is connected to the storm drains in the street, the neighbor has buried his sump discharge into the hole. We have not had any flooding since. To summarize, I have a $5000 hole in MY yard because the neighbor has a water problem.

One thing you could try is to contact your alderman. Explain your problem and ask him or her why he is allowing someone to flood your property. Remember, aldermen are elected, so if your alderman isn't very responsive to your problem, you could start making a really big fuss, if you know what I mean ;-)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2006 at 7:50AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Depending upon the lay of your property & where the flooding is in relation to available drainage (street or culvert), a light burm or slight ditch leading to the street are probably the most cost-effective solutions.

I would avoid making this a contentious issue with your neighbor; with you wanting to put in a pool (if it requires any heavy-equipment entry) you may need your neighbor's good will. Invite them over to a barbeque, and talk it over; my neighbor & I did so over a similar problem, and agreed to a ditch on the property line.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 6:48PM
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