Even the smallest amount of water where it does not belong can cause untold harm. While water can bring immediate damage, it also seeps into hidden places in a home, car or shed where it may cause long-term issues such as mold and rot.
When you alter your landscape or construct an addition or new building on your property, you have to be aware of the way your projects may create changes in storm runoff and other water drainage. If your neighbors do not have the same consideration, you may be struggling with unexpected damage from water diverted to your property.
The right to protect your property
Your neighbor may have done something to his or her property to alter the flow of surface water or to increase the amount of water that naturally flows onto your property. For example, sometimes paving a driveway, changing the landscape or adding a retaining wall can divert flowing water around your neighbor's property and dump it onto yours. On the other hand, your neighbor may simply be negligent about turning off a garden hose or repairing leaking pipes, allowing water onto your land.
If you are unable to reach an agreement with your neighbor to rectify the situation, you may have to go to court, in which case you will need to present the following information:
- The alterations the neighbor made were not necessary or important.
- It is reasonable to assume that your neighbor understood that the water would divert onto your property after the changes.
- The water damage to your property outweighs the value the neighbor added to his or her property by making the change.
Even though Texas laws contain the "common enemy" doctrine, which states that landowners are responsible for protecting their own land from natural enemies like water drainage, a modification in the law allows you to seek reparation from your neighbors if they divert excessive water from their property to yours.
Can I seek damages?
If the court rules in your favor in a water diversion dispute with your neighbor, the judge may also award damages, including the following:
- The court may order your neighbor to fix the problem unless the issue is major and expensive.
- Your neighbor replaces any property the water damaged.
- Your neighbor pays your expenses if you are unable to remain in your home due to the damage.
- Your neighbor may cover the cost of medical bills if the water resulted in illness, injury or emotional trauma.
A judge may also award punitive damages if you are able to prove that your neighbor intentionally and maliciously altered the path of the drainage water. You may find that your chances for a successful battle with your neighbor improve when you enlist the help of an experienced attorney.