Water Damage and Property Disputes: Who’s at Fault?

Published by SEO on June 8th 2015

Water Damage and Property Disputes: Who’s at Fault?

It’s Best Friends Day but when it comes to a property dispute with a neighbor, best friends can quickly turn into sworn enemies when water damage is involved. From roof water runoff to failed drainage systems, here is everything you need to know regarding water damage that originates from a neighbor’s property:

Water Runoff from Rain and Other Weather

If water damage caused by a neighbor’s property is the result of natural water runoff from rain and other weather conditions, in all likelihood your neighbor will not be responsible for the damage. This is because water naturally flows from higher to lower ground, meaning all homeowners are responsible for their own property and any resulting water damage. This would be the case in a two-story duplex for instance in which rainwater runs off the roof of the upstairs unit and onto the lower unit’s property.

Water Damage Property Dispute Laws

There are plenty of instances in which liability does in fact fall on a neighbor if water damage to your home originates from their property. There are 3 main laws, or rules, that dictate water damage liability:

  1. Reasonable Use Rule
    Most states in the U.S. refer to the Reasonable Use Law, which states that if a neighbor alters their property or land which leads to surface water causing damage to your property, your neighbor will be liable for any damages if it is found that the alteration was unreasonable. An example of an unreasonable alteration would be a pipeline that leads directly to your backyard rather than one that directs water to the street gutter.
  2. Common Enemy Rule
    On the other side of the spectrum is the Common Enemy Rule, which argues that rain and other natural water sources are a common enemy to all homeowners. Under this law, each and every homeowner is responsible for protecting their individual property from water damage. Some states have modified this law to make it less strict, allowing homeowners to hold a neighbor liable for water damage if it is deemed that a property modification was negligent.
  3. Civil Law Rule
    Also known as the “Natural Flow Rule”, this law imposes liability on any homeowner that makes an alteration to their property that changes the natural flow of water across the land. Under this rule, the example of the neighbor directing a pipeline into your backyard would be liable because they altered the natural flow of water.

Water Damage and Property Dispute Compensation

Damages range depending on the details of the situation but if you can prove that a neighbor is at fault for water damage to your property you may be entitled to any or all of the following:

  • Cost of repairs for water damaged property
  • Cost of a hotel to stay at during the repairs
  • Medical bills related to physical or mental distress
  • Punitive damages if you can prove malicious intent

In addition, you may be compensated for instances of “careless water damage”. For example, if a tree on your neighbor’s property has roots that go across property lines and cause a pipe burst in your home, your neighbor would be responsible for any damage caused.


At 911 Restoration our expert technicians specialize in water damage and can help you with all of your questions regarding property disputes as well as insurance coverage and compensation, so pick up the phone now and call us today!