Neighbors Filled in Easement Causing a Flood

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Question: My neighbor bought an overgrown wooded lot (about an acre) which has two water run off easements running through it and has since the subdivision was built in the 1960’s.  This property they bought borders our property.

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One of the easements runs through our backyard, through their property and then into an agricultural pond not owned by them.  As soon as they bought the lot they started filling both easements with dirt, felled trees, trash, etc.  Immediately our backyard started flooding and the septic tank quit working, there was debris in the pool, and pool equipment under water, as well as our storage building flooded.  We called the county and they asked the neighbors to clean out the trash because it was causing water backup to our subdivision.  This same easement runs through several other yards in the neighborhood.  

The neighbors totally ignored them and then went even further and filled the end of the drainage pipe to the easement in with bags of concrete and wire completely blocking any water from coming out. They also put up fences across both easements and the one in our yard they put up a black tarp about 60 ft. long and 6 ft. tall and cemented the bottom of it down so even rain water can not flow off my property. All the neighbors got together and called the county because of the massive flooding and the county and a state dept. representative came out and put a cease and disist order on the property.  Now these neighbors are calling the police to us over anything they can dream up. When the police won’t do what they want, they call our state rep. and have them call a county rep.  They cuss us out and walk through our yard and now the husband has come up on our porch and threatened us.The police say they can’t help us because when these neighbors call 911 they have to come and investigate (even though they know now what is going on).  The county does not want to get involved with it anymore so we are still flooding and we had to have our building and pool equipment and lines moved and now we are getting ready to have our septic lines rerouted.  All this at our expense and no one wants to deal with these neighbors.  And now of all things we got served with papers and they are suing us and the county and want a jury trial.  

Please HELP we don’t know what to do.  We can’t afford a lawyer and and trial.  The courthouse told us that this could take years to come to trial and could cost $100,000 or more.  We are just regular people living in an old 1960’s neighborhood.  Our house and lot and everything is only worth about $70,000 and the land that these neighbors bought only cost them $10,000. Can they really sue us over a drainage easement we had nothing to do with?  Any answers would be most appreciated!

Answer: When you bought your property, did you get title insurance?  It is common practice in some areas of the country, but not all.  If you did, you should tender the lawsuit to your title insurance company.  They may not cover this claim, but if they do, they’ll pay for the attorney as well. Unfortunately, disputes between unreasonable neighbors are a lot like a nasty divorce, except that you don’t stop being neighbors.  Your neighbor might not win this lawsuit, but almost certainly has the right to bring it.

The best we can say is that the costs you noticed apply to both sides: Your neighbor is also looking at the possibility of a five or six figure attorney bill, so there’s pressure for them to resolve it, too.