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How to cost share with neighbor for drainage issue?
Old 12-16-2014, 10:32 AM   #1
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How to cost share with neighbor for drainage issue?

Some of our neighbor's storm drainage is flowing into our property before flowing to the street. He is getting a bid on improving the drainage. The drainage work would have to be done on our property. The issue of who pays what has not been decided yet.

Background
Our neighbor "Greg" is situated up hill from us. He has just built a new swimming pool with extensive alterations to his backyard and lots of new concrete around the pool. This may have exacerbated the drainage issue into our property but I'm not sure how bad it was in the past. In a storm last week the water flowed into our driveway and pooled before running off down the driveway to the street and gutters.

Greg had mentioned in the summer that I should watch for drainage issues as his pool contractor had mentioned possible issues. Last week I contacted him during our big storm. Greg came over and even video recorded the water pooling to show a guy that works on drainage projects. Yesterday they came by and we discussed the drainage issues together.

The drainage guy will give Greg an estimate soon. It will include a catch basin on our property probably, and new piping going down our driveway (maybe 100 feet or so) towards the street gutters.

In a previous conversation Greg mentioned this work might be $1000 to $1500. I said we could chip in but we didn't discuss the division of costs. He's been very nice about the problem and admits that "90% of the water" is from his property.

The Question
I want to do the right thing in cost sharing but 50/50 seems like too much. I could ask Greg what he thinks is an equitable split. What do others think I should offer?
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Old 12-16-2014, 11:13 AM   #2
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Maybe ask Trombone Al's neighbor for some creative water diversion suggestions?
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Old 12-16-2014, 11:23 AM   #3
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In general, if you do something on your property that affects someone else's - you are responsible for the fixing up costs. It was your property modifications that caused the problem.

So in your situation, neighbor Greg's pool and other yard work is the cause of the resulting drainage problem. I assume prior to his new pool and yard work that you did not have the problem?

If being a nice neighbor is important to him, he should be footing the bill. You still have some difficulties to put up with the work and changes to your yard. You could pay some if you want, maybe the 10%/90% split for the water suggested by Greg. But I see it as Greg's responsibility to make it right, assuming I understand the situation correctly.
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Old 12-16-2014, 11:35 AM   #4
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If it were me, I would ask him to execute an easement agreement with you. The agreement would state that he, his successors and assigns would be responsible (and pay) for the construction and future maintenance of the storm sewer, grading, seeding, etc. Have a lawyer prepare the document and record it at the appropriate county recording office. It will serve notice to future owners of your place and his as to the responsibilities of the parties regarding this storm sewer.

And if you want to be a nice guy - maybe you can foot 10% of the construction bill since he seems to think that 90% of the water is his
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Old 12-16-2014, 11:36 AM   #5
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That and make sure the neighbor obtains the proper permits for the work. Personally I would want a civil engineer to review his 'solution'.

Keep in mind the fact that you will essentially be granting him an easement so require that the storm drain be placed in your property setback. In the future, maybe after you are long gone the owner of your property may tear down your house and build another. Don't complicate future construction.

There are legal issues to consider here.
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Old 12-16-2014, 11:37 AM   #6
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That and make sure the neighbor obtains the proper permits for the work. Personally I would want a civil engineer to review his 'solution'.
+1. An engineer needs to design it to make sure that the proposed solution solves the problem
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Old 12-16-2014, 11:39 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lsbcal View Post
Some of our neighbor's storm drainage is flowing into our property before flowing to the street. He is getting a bid on improving the drainage. The drainage work would have to be done on our property. The issue of who pays what has not been decided yet.

The Question
I want to do the right thing in cost sharing but 50/50 seems like too much. I could ask Greg what he thinks is an equitable split. What do others think I should offer?
During heavy downpours it is normal for water to pool somewhat before draining off.

Will the drainage work help with any issues you might have from your property? Will the drainage benefit you in possible resale value some day? If yes to some or all, I'd chip in. The more yes's, the more I'd chip in. Greg sounds like a stand-up guy. I wonder how many neighbors would just blow it off and let you deal with the water? Any way you look at it, I'd chip something in.
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Old 12-16-2014, 11:40 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by 38Chevy454 View Post
In general, if you do something on your property that affects someone else's - you are responsible for the fixing up costs. It was your property modifications that caused the problem.

So in your situation, neighbor Greg's pool and other yard work is the cause of the resulting drainage problem. I assume prior to his new pool and yard work that you did not have the problem?
...
Thanks for your ideas here.

I don't have a clear idea of how bad the drainage issue was before the pool work was done. The discussion with Greg this summer about his pool work and drainage sensitized me to this issue. Then the big storm we had after a severe 3 year drought was the first opportunity to watch for drainage issues. So yes, I think the water flow is worse but not sure how much worse.
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Old 12-16-2014, 11:45 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Kaufmanrider View Post
During heavy downpours it is normal for water to pool somewhat before draining off.

Will the drainage work help with any issues you might have from your property? Will the drainage benefit you in possible resale value some day? If yes to some or all, I'd chip in. The more yes's, the more I'd chip in. Greg sounds like a stand-up guy. I wonder how many neighbors would just blow it off and let you deal with the water? Any way you look at it, I'd chip something in.
Good points. I'm quite willing to chip in but not sure what the split should be. I doubt that the resale value would be enhanced, but it's a condition that needs some attention as it would make me feel better about nailing this down.
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Old 12-16-2014, 12:14 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by 38Chevy454 View Post
In general, if you do something on your property that affects someone else's - you are responsible for the fixing up costs. It was your property modifications that caused the problem.

So in your situation, neighbor Greg's pool and other yard work is the cause of the resulting drainage problem. I assume prior to his new pool and yard work that you did not have the problem?

If being a nice neighbor is important to him, he should be footing the bill. You still have some difficulties to put up with the work and changes to your yard. You could pay some if you want, maybe the 10%/90% split for the water suggested by Greg. But I see it as Greg's responsibility to make it right, assuming I understand the situation correctly.

I will beg to disagree... I would bet that it is a local issue for who is responsible... IOW, I can do anything that is legal on my property and not have to fix any problems that it creates on yours... an example... my dad owned a vacant lot... the city used that lot to park their equipment when they were widening the road.... dad agreed that they could put excess dirt on the property as long as they smoothed it out.... well, the property was raised by two feet... now, the house that backed up to this property had their yard angled to drain toward dad's property... now that it was two feet higher there was no place for the water to go... it just filled the back yard... lawyer said it was their problem to drain their yard....
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Old 12-16-2014, 12:17 PM   #11
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To OP,

Call a lawyer and find out.... I am sure a RE lawyer will know off the top of their head who is responsible.... if it is your neighbor, then you can push for him to fix the problem knowing you are in the right.... if it is your problem, then you know not to push and hope that he is a good neighbor and is willing to pony up some money to help you out...

I just do not know if it is as clear cut who is on the legal hook as some are making it out to be....
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Old 12-16-2014, 12:33 PM   #12
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Your neighbor Greg sounds like a really good guy.

Since you chose to live downhill from him and since he was properly permitted by local authorities (I'm assuming) to build the pool and surrounding concrete patio, he may have zero responsibility for drainage issues you encounter. Greg's interest in ensuring you "folks down the hill" don't have a drainage problem is above and beyond. That's good!

I think your primary concern isn't what portion of a relatively small bill ($1k - $1.5k) you pay, but that the drainage situation is altered to completely, reliably and permanently correct the problem. Secondarily, check with your insurance agent to be confident with your coverage should a much heavier downpour occur than what you've experienced so far.

I live substantially uphill of my neighbor behind me. His backyard flooded at least once every year until he spent big bux (much, much more than you're talking about) to put in some fixes. He is about ten feet below me, and my neighbors on each side of me, down a steep hill.

His house (with different owners) was already in place when I built mine. I went out of my way to make sure my sump pump discharge and gutters drained to the front towards our subdivision street and related storm sewers. That's all I could do.

The original owner and the current owner (who bought the house as a fixer-upper and has spent a lot of money on it) investigated legal action against the sub-division developer, me and my neighbors apparently to no avail. We were properly permitted and took what action we could to control drainage down the hill.

If I were you, I'd get involved in understanding any proposed fix. If a "adequate" fix is $1.5k and a "superior" fix is $5k, I'd try to get Greg to split the $5k fix with you. Again, you want a situation that completely, reliably and permanently frees you from the concern of drainage issues due to living down the hill.

I'm surprised you're not 100% aware of what drainage was like before the pool was built. When you buy "downhill," that is key. I would have thought you would have investigated that in excruciating detail before purchase.
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Old 12-16-2014, 12:59 PM   #13
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By changing his property so that more water flows onto your property your neighbor has damaged your property and is responsible, and Greg seems to acknowledge that. Those who suggest that he has no responsibility are just plain wrong.

Quote:
In general, a neighbor will not be responsible for damage to your property caused by runoff from naturally occurring rain and land conditions. As almost anyone who has lived on land lower than that of their neighbor's will tell you, water really does like to flow from higher to lower ground, even if that means running around whatever measures you have in place to control it. So even if your prized garden full of roses is ruined during every spring downpour from water running off of your neighbor's land, you probably don't have any recourse.

If your neighbor has landscaped his land, however, or altered his property in some other way that causes more water to run onto your land than would otherwise naturally occur, then you may have some recourse to recover for the damage. Even if your neighbor tries to argue that it is still not their problem, and it was not their landscaping or changes that caused the increase in surface water flowing onto your property, you may still be able to prevail.

- See more at: Water Damage and Neighbor Disputes - FindLaw
Given that the extent of the "problem" prior to Greg's improvements is unknown, a 90/10 split seems reasonable.
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Old 12-16-2014, 01:20 PM   #14
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By changing his property so that more water flows onto your property your neighbor has damaged your property and is responsible, and Greg seems to acknowledge that. Those who suggest that he has no responsibility are just plain wrong.
It would be an interesting legal action involving both the uphill and downhill owners and their insurance companies plus the permit granting authority who authorized the construction in the first place.

I've heard there are lots of these lawsuites going on in Calif these days with victims of mudslides, floods, etc., trying to go after uphill folks, even miles away, as being responsible for the damage they incured.
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Old 12-16-2014, 01:40 PM   #15
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More from the Findlaw link:
Quote:
Common Enemy Rule -- This rule was derived from English Common Law and treats rainwater and other natural sources of water as a common enemy to all landowners. Under this rule, followed by many states, each landowner is expected to protect his or her own land from surface and runoff water. Landowners can take whatever steps they wish, such as building dikes or drainage ditches. If surface water runs from your neighbor's land onto your land, causing more damage than natural, you are still expected to protect your land from this water.

Many states that still follow the common enemy rule, however, have modified it to make it less strict. Under these modified rules, you may still be able to hold your neighbor liable for damage to your property if the modification (protection) of your neighbor's property was negligent.

Civil Law Rule -- This rule can be considered the opposite of the common enemy rule. The civil law rule, also known as the Natural Flow Rule, imposes liability on any landowner that changes his or her land in a way that changes the natural flow of surface water across the land. For example, if your neighbor built a drain pipe in his land that drained more surface water onto your land, your neighbor would be liable to you because he changed the natural flow of surface water.

Like the common enemy rule, the civil law rule has been modified in most states that follow it. Much like the reasonable use rule, states that follow the civil law rule allow modifications of land so long as the modification is reasonable. Under the modified civil law rule, however, the owner of the land seeing the increased harm may also be expected to take reasonable measures to protect his or her land from damage due to the increased surface water.

- See more at: Water Damage and Neighbor Disputes - FindLaw
and even more...

The legal part of this can be very confusing... similar to "Tree Law".
The longer we live, the more problems we see like this... Subject is loosely "neighborhood boundaries". The law is not always clean cut. We had a tree damage problem, which cost us about $2K, and narrowly avoided two "intrusive light" problems. The first was a backyard neighbor who left for the winter, and left a yard motion floodlight on... which went on an off with every moving leaf, bird, or gust of wind. I just unscrewed the bulb, and told him when he returned. That fixed it... good guy.
The second "light" problem was a neighbor across the lake from my camp, who had a large floodlight which beamed out over the water and destroyed the night time peace for neighbors on my side of the lake. This became difficult, as our HOA had no specific laws about "light pollution", and the problem went to a fairly expensive trial.
An hour of searching "law" is often well spent. For those in HOA's... best to read the prospectus early on.

"Friendly" is the operative word in most cases.
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Old 12-16-2014, 03:16 PM   #16
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Why is it not possible for Greg to drain the water created by his pool via his own yard vs yours? In some cases, original drainage plans do allow one property to drain unto another adjacent property and then to the street. Have you checked with the town on original drainage plan and from the town's perspective whether that original plan was altered? Also, State laws on the subject vary, so not a bad idea to research or get an attorney involved.
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Old 12-16-2014, 03:43 PM   #17
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Thanks everyone for the thoughts so far!!!

I'm very reticent to get into legal issues on this when we could probably solve what seems to currently be a minor (I think) water flow issue. Last week's storm is about as bad as I've seen a storm here in the 17 years we've lived here. There was 8 inches of rain in something like 48 hours.

We currently have a 5 inch diameter plastic pipe running up the driveway for drainage. That pipe is probably about 30 years old. What Greg is proposing is to replace it with a new pipe and extend it towards his property more and put in a small catch basin near or on his property. Greg's house is behind ours and maybe 5 feet higher elevation. He has street access at the front of his house so not all of his water flow is towards our property.

I'm no water expert but this sounds like a sensible solution. Some things I will discuss:
1) Need to get a copy of the work proposal.
2) How big a diameter (perforated plastic) pipe are they suggesting?
3) How big and where will the catch basin be?
4) Is Greg planning on diverting any other parts of his water runoff to this pipe? Or is the situation going to remain as it is now?

Also I'm thinking I'll just ask him how much he thinks I should contribute to this. I'll of course mention that he estimates the water is 90% from his house and that it was probably exacerbated by the pool work. I hope to do this in a nice neighborly way so we can all be happy and be friends.

Sound OK? Any other good questions to explore?
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Old 12-16-2014, 03:52 PM   #18
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Don't overlook the risk of creating an easement....
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Old 12-16-2014, 04:19 PM   #19
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If you voluntarily offer that 10%, I suggest you make it 10% but no greater than a specific dollar amount.
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Old 12-16-2014, 04:47 PM   #20
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One other thought, I would go with hard pipe vs the flexible ribbed type as the later type can plug up very easily if any debris gets in the catch basin or leaves go from a gutter through a downspouts tying into it.
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