Neighbor's Gutter Drains On My Property! (Here's What You Can Do)

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

Relationships with neighbors can often be complex and complicated. Sharing a property line is not always easy. Sometimes trees fall and pets can wander where they should not. Usually, it is easy to keep things civil and friendly with your neighbor.

When your neighbor installs new gutters that drain on your property you may get immediately concerned or even angry. Before you march next door and bang on your neighbors’ door you should take a moment to breathe. Once you are calm you should research the law before heading over in a calm fashion.

When your neighbor’s gutters drain on your property try to find a friendly resolution. Next, you should document the water drainage issue. Try resolving the issue using water diverting techniques or by adding additional drainage. Research the law to see if your neighbor is liable for water damage. Contact a lawyer as a last resort once you have tried all other methods to resolve the issue.

When your neighbors gutter drains on your property you should take the time to calmly think of how to approach the situation. Anger rarely leads to the desired resolution. Instead, take a calm but direct method towards resolving the issue.

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Try Talking To Your Neighbor

  • Have A Neighborly Chat. When you first notice that your neighbors gutter drains on your property it is best to address the issue in a friendly fashion. Keep in mind you live next to this person and you should try to keep things calm as much as possible. The solution may be as simple as your neighbor installing a different type of gutter or rain diverter
  • Document Your Concerns. If the problem is not resolved after your initial conversation, or if you and your neighbor can not see eye-to-eye the next step is to document your concerns. Sometimes photos, videos and examples of your concerns will be enough to convince your neighbor to help fix the problem.
  • Send Certified Letter To Neighbor With Possible Solutions. If your neighbor is not willing to budge after you show your documented concerns you can send a certified letter to begin a paper trail. You may need this if you end up pursuing legal action.
  • Await Response. Be sure to allow plenty of time, up to 30 days, to receive a response. If the matter is not an emergency it is always good to stay on the amicable side of things.

Try Diverting the Flow

There are several ways you can try to divert the flow of water in response to your neighbors gutter draining on your property. You can try the drain, mote, or even the well approach.

  • Install A French Drain. A French drain is a trench with a perforated drain pipe that is topped with gravel. The gravel allows water to drain into the trench without the ground shifting and prevents muddy buildup. French drains are a good solution if your neighbors’ gutters are dumping a moderate amount of runoff onto your property.
  • Dig a Dry Well. A dry well is an underground well structure whose purpose is to collect and redeposit runoff water into the ground. Before you pursue this option be sure your ground area is suitable for a dry well. Be sure the runoff water is not contaminated either, as this water will go directly into the groundwater.
  • Build A Berm. A berm is, simply put, a mound of soil. Berms are built in a linear fashion and are used to divert and redirect runoff water. They do not prevent the water from collecting, but they can help guide the runoff water away from your home.

Contact HomeOwners Association

If you live in a community with a homeowners association (HOA) you can use them as a resource. HOA’s can be a great buffer between neighbors. Additionally, HOA’s often have detailed guidelines on what a house can and cannot have. The HOA will determine whose responsibility it is to fix the issue. There may even be a bylaw that lists the type of acceptable gutters.

Learn The Law

There are several laws to consider and familiarize yourself with if your neighbors’ gutters drain on your property.

Reasonable Use Rule

The reasonable Use Rule determines whether the alterations made on your neighbor’s property were reasonable or negligible. This is where a court will determine exactly how substantial and necessary the alterations are.

This is where your documentation and physical evidence will be needed. The damage to your property will be compared to the increased value of your neighbor’s property. It is up to the court to decide which party, if any, should pay damages.

Common Enemy Rule

The common enemy rule explains that water coming from natural sources is a common enemy to all homeowners. This means that it is the homeowners’ responsibility to protect his or her home from water damage.

Some states still hold neighbors accountable if they have altered their property in a negligible way that directly affects their neighbor’s ability to control water runoff. Still, it is primarily the homeowners responsibility to protect their property from water runoff however they can.

Civil Law Rule (Natural Flow Rule)

The Civil Law Rule, also known as the Natural Flow Rule, is essentially in direct opposition to the Common Enemy Rule. This rule places liability on a landowner who makes land modifications that change the natural flow of water.

In other words, the Common Enemy Rule may initially reign supreme, but if a landowner makes major alterations that affect water flow onto their neighbor’s property then they can be found liable.

Legal Tip: There are several exceptions to this rule, and they may vary state to state to be sure to do your research.

Get A Professional Estimate

Before you look into hiring a lawyer you may want to get a professional estimate first. You may be able to install a drain or drywall on your property for a small sum. You can potentially take your neighbor to small claims court over this amount. This would solve the problem without a prolonged legal battle.

Seek Legal Advice

Going to a lawyer should be your last resort. When both you and your neighbor “lawyer up” a long, expensive and potentially ugly battle may ensue. Sometimes a lawsuit can not be avoided, but remember that after the lawsuit ends you still have to live next to the person you sue.

First contact a lawyer who specializes in property damage or real estate. Seek their counsel and see if your neighbor is definitely at fault for gutters draining on your property. If so, the lawyer can advise you on the best next legal steps to take.

Related Questions

How Do I Know If I Need Flood Insurance?

Many mortgages that are federally backed will require you to obtain flood insurance if you live in an at-risk area. When you live on a flood plain or other at-risk areas you will likely be required to maintain flood insurance as a term of your mortgage. 

What Type Of Lawyer Do I Need When I Sue Over My Neighbor For Property Damage?

When you sue your neighbor over property damage you can either hire a lawyer or take your neighbor to small claims court. If you are suing over a specific amount with a documented receipt you can fill a claim order in a small claims court.If you are dealing with a complex and potentially costly issue you can fire an attorney that specializes in property and real estate. Be advised that these lawsuits can be costly and should be a last resort.

How Often Should I Clean My Gutters?

The frequency you clean your gutters depends on your climate and surroundings. In general it is best practice to clean and clear your gutters a minimum of twice a year. If you live in a highly wooded area, or in an area you should clean them with more frequency.If you live in an area that experiences all four seasons you should clear out your gutters after the leaves and needles fall from the trees around you. Clearing gutters before the winter will help prevent roof damage and flooding in winter months.

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In Conclusion

There are many types of gutters on the market. One day you may find yourself the unlucky victim of your neighbor’s gutter when it starts draining on your property. Remember there are a variety of solutions to this problem.

You should always talk to your neighbor first. This could allow you to maintain a good relationship and come to an amicable solution. If that does not work, you can try fixing the drainage issue on your property using a variety of drainage or diverting techniques.

Do your best to use a lawyer only when you have tried all other methods to solve the problem. Remember that the drainage can be water under the bridge, but bad blood between two neighbors can last a very long time.

Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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