Does Government Agency Have Right to do Whatever They Want With Our Property?

Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.

“Our house was built in a development in the State of New York in 2008 that connected our road to another in the development.  There is a 10′ drainage easement on the WEST side of the property (our side lot).  Now, the Town wants to put SWALES through 4 feet of our front yard.  Our question is:  The Town has no drainage easement on the front of our property, I have thoroughly researched the Deed.  The only easement the Town has is for sewer and the aforementioned 10′ drainage easement on the west side of the property.  Can they just do whatever they want with our front yard?  Obviously, swales are going to severely affect our property value.”

In general, someone who doesn’t have any legal rights (like an easement) over your property wouldn’t have the right to make changes on it.  However, government agencies are a special case: In addition to looking at the title to your property, you’ll need to review any applicable zoning or other local laws that might give them this authority.

Usually, I recommend putting this on the other party.  Ask your contact at the town (in a non-antagonistic way) what their legal authority is for this planned change; they should be able to point you to the appropriate place.  And if it’s not clear to you, you can then review that with your attorney.