What Rights Do I Have To Keep My Graded Property From Being Washed Out?

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.

I bought a piece of property approximately 1.0 acres in a small private community and the road is not state maintained. My lot is at the bottom of the road. There are 8 house sites total on the hill. I am grading out for a house on my lot. I knew of the water drainage problem onto my land when I bought it and figured that I would address it when the time comes. The time has come and there are drainage ditches on both sides of the road all the way up except on my property. There is a 15 inch culvert pipe that is ran across the dirt road in front of my property and spilling directly onto my property. All the runoff from the road from the top has been directed onto me. I can fix the problem on my side of the road with drainage ditches and piping but my neighbor above me from across the road says I cant remove the culvert. This drain pipe was put in many years ago and no one has said anything because the original landowners lived out-of-state and didn’t monitor the property. I have gravel and lots of runoff piled up at the lower end of my property because of the drain pipe. Can I not go ahead and remove the pipe from the dirt road and ditch my side as needed and let the ditch on the other side carry its own water? Do I have to contact someone about this? I need to fix this problem quickly in order to keep my newly graded property from being washed out. Please help!

This is a potentially complicated problem, so I can’t say much other than to consult with a real estate attorney in your area. Some of the issues that might be involved include the legal rights regarding the private road, and any maintenance agreement for it; any prescriptive rights that the neighbors may have attained over the years of use of your property; potential trespass or damages actions if you do make changes that negatively affect your neighbors’ land; and possible claims against the person you bought the property from.

That’s just off the top of my head; there may be other issues as well. This is not something that can be answered adequately without a thorough review of your situation, which is what an attorney can do for you.