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Can I sue my neighbor who received a lot of fill and raised his property substantially, causing water to drain onto my yard...

Potsdam, NY |

because now my yard is much shorter. The neighbor received a lot of fill from local contractors. When I asked the contractors for fill, they said my property was further away (less than 1/2 a mile) and the neighbors property was closer. So, their property is much higher than it was, and my back yard always floods. I have no proof, but it is obvious they received so much fill. Can I legally do anything? It has been happening going on about 3 years now. My basement also floods now. It did a little before, but much more now in the past 2 years.

Attorney Answers 4


  1. As you stated that you "have no proof" and you are 1/2 mile away it would be an extremely difficult case to win. If you could obtain proof you might be able to seek relief based upon your neighbor creating a nuisance.

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  2. I agree with Mr. Chertok. If the neighbor's property is 2000 feet away, it's unlikely that their fill caused a nuisance. Also, at common law, drainage problems were generally not considered nuisances if a landowner improved his property by importing fill which caused natural drainage patterns to change.

    Today, most impacts of that nature are dealt with in the planning, zoning and environmental law context where fill placement may be regulated by stormwater management or wetlands permitting which may require permission to place fill on property or require that post construction/improvement runoff volumes not exceed pre-development runoff.

    However, this depends on the location of the property (city vs. country), the type of development (single family vs. subdivisons or commercial development and other factors. You should consult with a landscape architect or engineer in the area to see whether the neighbor's fill placement was regulated or whether it has a causal link to your flooding problems before consulting an attorney if there is some remedy. Your local building codes officer or planner may be able to offer some insights and advice as well.

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  3. I think there is a 3 year statute of limitations for suing for damages if you have a cause of action at all. An up-gradient property owner cannot change the character of his or her land such that it changes the drainage from the up-gradient property to the down-gradient property. You would need a qualified expert to advise whether this has been done.

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  4. Under Common law in NY, property owners have a legal obligation to runoff
    from flooding neighboring properties. If the neighbor will not listen to
    reason and the local municipality will not help you, a lawsuit is your only
    alternative.

    Joseph A. Bollhofer, Esq.

    Joseph A. Bollhofer, P.C.

    291 Lake Ave.

    St. James, NY 11780

    (631)584-0100

    fax (631)584-2304

    info@bollhoferlaw.com

    www.bollhoferlaw.com

    Member, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA)

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    Unless specifically stated otherwise, this communication shall not be deemed
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