Blocking a established drain . . . can you do it?

This is a good one, and one that not many people can answer. There’s not even a mention to this question in my state’s property legislation.

My neighborhood has a little problem that occurs maybe 4 to 5 times a year. The area, especially that of myself and my neighbors on each side, slightly slopes down from the road. Today we received 3 to 4 inches of rain in a 12 hour period. My neighbors and I get the rain run off from our neighbors across the street (if the ground will no longer absorbed the rain) as well as the rain off the street. The rain from the street is a result of the street drains inability to take in so much rain at one time. When this happens my backyard forms a few puddles. The neighbor behind me is the real loser here. Their yard becomes a small lake.

Let’s start where this whole problem began. When I purchased my home from the estate of some dear friends (the house never went on the market, we settled on a price and a attorney conducted the close). There was also a piece of land the original owner owned that I had the option to buy. The .25 acre lot falls behind my neighbors home, and everybody around here knows what goes on with the lot when it rains . . . it becomes a lake. For that reason, plus I didn’t won’t to pay city/county taxes on it and because I knew the many restrictions the town and the subdivision placed on the lot. Because I didn’t want it, the lot was tossed into the estate auction. The auctioneer disclosed the restrictions and the bidding began. It was also pointed out that the lot turned into the neighborhood reservoir when it rained There was some interest in the lot by my two neighbors who’s property also adjoined the small lot, but when the price went above ,000 they stopped. Some woman that lives an hour away was bound and determined she was going to get that lot (I believe she went bid crazy) and got it for ,500. Some time later she finally came back down to earth and got a reality check. She wanted to store firewood on the lot, couldn’t do that. She was going to place a mobile home on the lot, couldn’t do that. When she ran out of options, she mailed letters to the neighborhood offering to sell the lot for ,000. She didn’t get any takers and a “For Sale” sign sat on the property of six months with no buyer. We can only guess her next action was done in some sort of retaliation. Between my property and my next door neighbor runs a ditch. No one dug this ditch. It was formed over the years by rain water. The ditch is actually the property line. In August, she dumped a load of mulch onto the ditch to prevent water from continuing down the ditch to her lot. She blocked the waters right of way that had been in place for over 40 years. First can she do that? Second, if the ditch is the property line how do you half it? After noticing the large amount of mulch building up in my backyard, I went, in the pouring rain, with my shovel and opened up the ditch, so the water could flow as always.

Has anyone else had to deal with this? If need be I’ll address my councilman and put it to a vote.

Thank you for reading this lengthy post, but I want to arm myself with as much knowledge as possible.

One Response to “Blocking a established drain . . . can you do it?”

  1. nttbirney Says:

    I am in Texas, so I do not know if this applies in your state. If there is no specific easement for drainage across the crazy lady lot, you may have a prescriptive right to drainage, especially if the drainage course has been there for a sufficient time period.

    Also generally speaking, you can not make changes to your land that affects the amount of water that flows across someone else’s property. If she continues to block the drainage easement, you might have to do the things that people do when they have problems with others. Talk to her. Ask her politely. Have a lawyer send her a letter threatening legal action. Sue her. Your councilman is not necessarily able to do something about a crazy neighbor – you would probably just be annoying him. You would perhaps be better off talking to the city engineer or maybe the city flood plain administrator if your city is big enough to have either. (Often the city engineer is the flood plain administrator).