Written by attorney Michelle A. Perfili

When It Rains in California...storm Damage - Landslides, Law and Liability

Despite the idyllic weather in California, seasonal rains can present an overwhelming challenge when nature exacts a price for residing in the Golden State. As a property owner, analysis of liability (meaning legal responsibility) can be as slippery a slope as the rain soaked earth around you. Protecting your home and your pocketbook should be a first priority and a strategic analysis of your individual situation is essential. Assess the source and extent of your damage: Did the seller or the developer disclose any particular issues with respect to drainage, sloping or water diversion issues on your property? Is any flooding caused by the fault of county drain problems or conditions on an neighboring property? Is your damage the result of an "act of God" or are there other players in the mix? Consider the source of funding for repairs, replacement and finding a remedy for future problems: If you have insurance (whether you have "flood" insurance or other provisions) contact your carrier and report any damage to your personal or real property or claims by neighbors should your property be claimed to be the source of erosion, debris or water flow to other properties. A "turn down" letter may be necessary to pursue other options such as governmental assistance, including a "FEMA claim" in a proper situation. Your lawyer can also review your policy regarding the propriety of a denial of coverage. Failure to provide for water flow can also be considered a "defect" in the home that may give rise to a claim against the developer/builder of the home or, if a seller was aware of such an issue and failed to disclose the problem, may give rise to a claim related to the purchase/sale transaction. Governmental liability for damage may be subject to a "tort claims act" that requires a timely claim to be presented before any lawsuit may be initiated. Seeking Professional help: Many experienced real estate lawyers will offer you a free consultation regarding your rights and remedies as well as an assessment of any potential liability you may have to others who may be "downstream" from your property. Your lawyer may also make recommendations to other professionals, including engineers and contractors, who can assess the source of the problem as well as making recommendations to fix the issues involving your property. Facing a deluge of water, mud and headaches can be made more bearable by knowing your rights and taking appropriate and prompt action. Careful planning and knowledge can prevent you from being "soaked" in more ways than one.

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