If you’re facing water drainage issues on your property caused by an adjoining property in Florida, it’s essential to understand the various factors that can impact your legal rights and options. Water disputes in Florida often involve complex rules and considerations, such as the source of the water, the nature of the alterations made to the neighboring property, and the legal doctrines that govern water flow and land use in the state.
Florida follows a modified version of the Reasonable Use Rule, which requires you to prove that your neighbor took some type of affirmative action that caused water damage, the alteration to the land was unreasonable, and this action changed the natural flow of water onto your property. The fact finder may evaluate various factors to determine whether the alteration was reasonable or not, including the relative importance of the alteration and the foreseeability of the damage.
Depending on the specific circumstances, you may be able to pursue compensation for damages or seek equitable remedies under Florida law, such as requiring the neighbor to stop or modify their actions causing the water damage. Legal assistance from an experienced Florida attorney can be invaluable in navigating these complex issues, investigating the cause of the damage, assessing potential remedies, and helping you protect your property and rights. Don’t hesitate to consult a lawyer familiar with Florida law to discuss your specific situation and explore your options for resolving water drainage disputes.
Nature of Water Disputes
Water that comes into a home can cause a significant amount of damage, resulting in ceilings and floors collapsing and possibly the development of mold which can be expensive and difficult to eradicate. Additionally, the structure of a home can be compromised due to flooding, an overflow of water or a buildup of water. When a neighbor’s water leads to damage, serious disputes may arise.
In water disputes, it is often necessary to first determine the source of the water. Generally, neighbors are not held legally responsible for damage to a property that is caused by the natural runoff that occurs when rain or other precipitation meets the earth.
Diversion of Water
However, if the runoff is caused by alterations of a neighbor’s yard that causes more water to run down the land onto the neighbor’s property, legal recourse may be available. Some states have laws that prohibit individuals and businesses from diverting or impounding the natural flow of surface waters that damages another’s property due to overflow caused by the diverted water.
Reasonable Use Rule
Some states use the reasonableness approach to determine whether or not to hold a neighbor responsible for damage caused by water. States that follow this rule generally require an individual to prove that the neighbor took some type of affirmative action that caused a neighbor to sustain water damage, this alteration to the land was unreasonable and this action changed the natural flow of water onto the property. The fact finder may evaluate a number of different factors in order to determine whether the alteration was reasonable or not, including the relative importance of the alteration, whether the damage from the diverted water was reasonably foreseeable at the time the neighbor made the alteration and the difference between the value of the damage to the neighbor’s property than to the increased value of the diverted neighbor’s property.
Common Enemy Rule
Another rule that may apply in these situations is the common enemy rule, which requires each landowner to protect his or her own land from surface water. If this step is observed in the state, the landowner can generally take steps that they want to help themselves, such as building drainage ditches. If a neighbor’s diversion leads to more water, the landowner is supposed to take steps to protect his or her own land. Some states follow this rule but have adjusted it to not be as harsh to damaged properties and allows for questions regarding negligence.
Natural Flow Rule
The opposite of the common enemy rule is the Natural Flow Rule. This rule imposes liability on a landowner who changes his or her land in a manner that alters the natural flow of water onto the surface and across the land. States that follow this rule may have adjusted it. The adjusted rule may permit modifications to a person’s land so long as the modification is reasonable. However, there may be a higher duty imposed on landowners to take additional measures to protect his or her own land caused by damage and increased water.
Neighbors who have been adversely affected by a neighbor’s negligence may be able to pursue compensation for the damages that they have suffered. Potential damages include the cost to repair or replace property that is damaged, the cost of temporary lodging while the repairs are being made, medical bills related to the water damage and punitive damages. These damages can often be significant.
Equitable remedies may also be available. The court can order the neighbor to stop taking whatever action that is causing the water damage. It can also order the court to take certain action that will prevent the runoff or minimize it.
Landowners who have been adversely affected by the actions of neighbors may be able to pursue damages that they have sustained with the help of a lawyer. A lawyer can investigate the nature of the claims about the possible cause of the damage, the extent of the damage and potential remedies. He or she may also investigate whether there are any insurance policies in place that may help minimize the damages suffered by the property owner.