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Water damage and neighbor disputes: when is your neighbor responsible for your loss?

Freezing temperatures in the Las Vegas valley bring about problems such as frozen pipes, burst pipes and broken pool pumps. These situations can cause damage to not only your property but perhaps even you neighbor’s property. When the water damage may have been caused by a neighbor's negligence, serious disputes can arise. In this article we will be discussing two water categories; Surface and Careless Water.

Surface Water

In general, a neighbor will not be responsible for damage to your property caused by runoff from naturally occurring rain and land conditions. So even if your garden is ruined after every flash flood, from water running off of your neighbor's land, you probably don't have any recourse.

If your neighbor has landscaped his land or altered his property in some other way that causes more water to run onto your land than would otherwise naturally occur, then you may have some recourse to recover for the damage. There are three common doctrines which have been followed in the United States: the common enemy doctrine, civil law rule, and the rule of reasonable use. The Nevada Supreme Court initially adopted the civil law rule of drainage in 1885. The civil law rule was later changed when the Nevada Supreme Court adopted the reasonable use rule for surface water drainage in 1980. Nevada does not recognize the common enemy rule.

Reasonable Use Rule – Many states use this rule; however, each state may apply it in different ways. In Nevada a landowner or user, acting in good faith, may drain surface waters and cast them on a neighbor's land. However, the flow of water must be reasonably necessary for drainage, they must take reasonable care to avoid unnecessary injury, the benefit to the drained land must outweigh the harm inflicted to your land, and if it is possible your neighbor must avoid the harm by improving or complementing the natural system of drainage.

You may ask: what kinds of alterations are considered reasonable and what are unreasonable? Nevada Courts tend to look at each case carefully when considering whether an alteration was reasonable, so there is no clear cut line separating reasonable from unreasonable. Nevada Courts look at some general factors to help it in its judgment. These factors may include:

· How important was the alteration?

· Was increased damage reasonably foreseeable at the time the alteration?

· What’s the comparative damage to your property versus the increased use or value of your neighbor's property?

Careless Water Damage

If your property has been damaged because of the carelessness or negligence of your neighbor, you may be able to collect compensation for your damage and losses.

Careless water damage is often the result of simple accidents and forgetfulness. Sources of these types of damages include leaking or broken water hoses, leaky sprinkler heads, broken, frozen or burst water pipes, and even clogged rain gutters. You may even be compensated for damage caused by your neighbor's water pipes because maintenance is the responsibility of owners.

What Damages Must Be Paid?

If you can prove that your neighbor is responsible for water damage, you may be able to collect damages for:

· The cost of repairs or replacement of water damaged property

· The cost of staying at a hotel if your home is uninhabitable because of water damage

· Punitive damages if you can show that your neighbor acted maliciously


In addition to legal remedies you should be proactive and speak with your insurance agent about homeowner's insurance and flood insurance. While insurance cannot prevent water damage caused by your neighbor it may give you the financial resources to begin making repairs and mitigate your damages. It may also protect you financially in the event that you are the neighbor that causes the damage.

We encourage you to properly maintain your home, pipes, and landscaping to avoid being the cause of a neighbor's damage. Consider what improvements or maintenance your property may require. Finally, make sure you have the proper insurance to protect your property.

If you have property damage that is a result of a neighbor's negligence or you have questions about other neighbor conflicts, please contact our office for a consultation.

This article is offered for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or initiate an attorney-client relationship.


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