Help! Neighbor changed grade to flood my backyard!

top view

top view

top view back view where trees are side view showing raised wood beds back patio entrance

Here's a question about flooding in a yard caused by a neighbor's new landscaping.


Hi Susan,
I am hoping you can give me some advice as I am desperate for a solution.
I just wanted to start off by saying that I live in a townhouse and am attached on both sides to the worst neighbors. I had to tell you this before hand because there is no reasoning with them or talking to them to come up with a fix.

Okay, now here is the issue. If you look at my yard from the top view, the neighbor to my right has a wood deck that is about 1 foot higher than my yard.
Between all sides of the fences, there is a retaining wall (except for a few select "missing and cracked areas" which I now believe were deliberate). His deck is higher than this retaining wall and actually goes over it towards my yard.
I always had problems with standing water in my yard, but it was tolerable until the neighbor on the left side changed her yard to all concrete. Again, she raised her entire yard up to and slightly above the retaining wall. You can also see her yard is pitched to the right (to spill onto my yard). There is a large section of the retaining wall missing between the back of the house to the middle of the fence on the left side. Ever since she did her yard this way, my yard is completely flooded. And when I say flooded, it floods within minutes, at least 6" deep in the back, and almost reaches the door. Well, it would have flooded the ground level of my house if I didn't have sandbags across the whole yard and spend 16 hours during the last storm pumping water and carrying buckets. Literally thousands of gallons of water. Meanwhile, both yards to the left and right of me are dry as could be. Because I am the lowest yard, I am getting all of their water. I could deal with my own storm water, but to get 3x the amount is not fair. I know it is illegal, what they have done, but again, I will get nowhere reporting them.


I have researched online for some methods to try and help the situation. I even received estimates from landscaping and masonry companies, and they are very costly.
1 - Have someone build a new retaining wall
2 - Concrete the entire yard and raise it so that I won't get the water runoff from everyone else
3 - Maybe put some berms or raise flowers beds on both sides of the fence?
By doing this, I know I would still contain my own water because the center of the yard will still be lower.
4 - Place sandbags in the areas where the retaining wall is missing, maybe this would help some?

I even thought about a drain, but there is nowhere to run it. We only have a drywell for storm water where the gutters drain into and I'm not sure how large it is or how much water it can contain. Since we are attached on both sides, there is no option of draining out to the front of my house.

Please let me know what you think is the best solution and then which might be the least expensive solution that can still help the situation.

Thank you so much!

ANSWER

You hit the nail on the head when you said that you know what the neighbor (on your left) did is illegal. TOTALLY! It is illegal to create a drainage situation where more water drains to a neighboring property than drained there before.

I believe your best solution is the following. Install a drain along the retaining wall so that any water coming from your neighbor's concrete yard will go into the drain. This should be a perforated pipe, laid along the wall. It should have a base of stone beneath it and the pipe itself should be wrapped in fabric to prevent dirt from entering. On top of the pipe should be a thick layer of stone to allow the water to seep into the pipe.

The pipe should be pitched to the dry well. All this being said, the lay of the land must allow this to pitch correctly at (ideally) 1/4 inch per foot.

I would have an engineer determine what the correct size should be for the dry well. You will then most likely have to have a new, larger dry well installed to accommodate the increase in water that it will absorb.

I would speak to a lawyer and have them send a letter to your neighbor stating the following:

1. What they have done is illegal.
2. They must pay for or share (your decision)in all legal and engineering costs.
3. They must pay for or share in the cost of the dry well.
4. If they refuse to do so, you will sue them.

Of course this is my opinion and having a consultation with a lawyer would be the first step.

I don't see any of the recommended solutions that you mentioned above working. An engineer or a good landscape architect will be able to determine if this drainage solution is feasible based on your grades. If I can be of further help, please let me know.



Comments for Help! Neighbor changed grade to flood my backyard!

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sometimes dealing with bad neighbors...
by: Anonymous

the law or the courts can;t or won't protect you if you go after your neighbors legally through a lawyer etc. these people know what they did as long as they get rid of their water-rain problem and give it all you you they dont give a flying #$#@ You cant really deal with them because you then risk getting flat tires, vandalism, etc. you name it! if they themselves dont do the mischief to you they Im sure have friends who would love to oblige! Im sorry to hear about what they have done to you. They are degenerates. They are the scum of the earth.I would do exactly as they have done with their yard. Hopefully they will then have to figure out how to get rid of their own water, that they wont be able to give you anymore! You cant let them bully you. Fight back with a bigger better backyard! Im sure you spent enough money on pumps, man hours of bailing buckets and buckets. You dont need to spend another life savings on lawyers. They can't prtoect you or your backyard, when youre dealing with degenerate neighbors! My heart goes out to you! I will say a pray for you and your situation! You didnt ask for the role of Mr Nice Guy. or Mr Martyr! You want to live in peace and just owning and paying the costs for a house is insane these days! Nevermind when they intentionally cause you harm. screw them for a change!

Drainage and Legal Issues
by: Susan

I differ with you. Laws are put into place for a reason. The key is to have a good lawyer. However, it might not go that far once they receive the proper letter with the legal information from an attorney.

Actually, even the landscaper should be sent a letter.

Same Problem
by: Anonymous

The neighbors just cemented their whole back yard including the entire back easement. They made it 2 different levels higher than their inground pool giving us all their water on one side of their yard and also it made our 6 foot fence no longer private. How frustrating!! Talking to the city was useless. Some people are just plain inconsiderate!!!

water runoff problem too
by: Anonymous

I found this site while looking for solutions to my problem. My neighbor behind me installed patio blocks and now their yard is a foot higher than mine. I have a retaining wall, but their patio is higher than it.
When it rains hard all their water comes cascading under their fence and runs into my garden, which then puts all that soil into my inground pool. I'm not sure what to do at this point. I'm tempted to just put sandbags against the fence so they have deal with their own water problems.

The neighbor to the left of me installed patio blocks too so now I get flooded on that side as well. I can't win.

So, I have no solutions for the original poster, but at least she knows she's not the only one dealing with inconsiderate neighbors.


flooding on my well
by: Bob H e mail RHamiltonjr@wi.rr.com

Yeah I have the same problem, this landscaper bought the place next to me in 2006 and in 2007 he raised the lot 12" and pitched it all my way[110' to be exact] I have a well within 50 feet of his TWO mountains of colored mulch and he floods me all the time. The end result as we speak is I have red mulch color and heavy metals in my drinking water and the town and the county even the DNR wont do anything. I got curious on friday and went to the neighbors place and they have heavy color in their well water too, to a point that is is caked on, unreal, I've been to lawyers,the DNR since 2006 trying to put a stop to the fill he did but nothing, I live in southeast wi, Kenosha county, these officals dont do anything, I even had the enviromental manager from Kenosha county here and he didn't do anything, this water got me very sick, now I get water by the bottle and get water at our dairy farm.The town and the DNR point fingers at me saying my well is breached I beg to differ they don't even look at the surrounding wells, crips I have a tavern next to me and a shampoo shop for the old ladies not to mention a eyeglass place and a rental building all on his well, the tavern has a well of their own but all within 100 feet of each other. We never had a problem with our well and NEVER got sick from the water till this landscaper did this alteration to his lot. The original guy that owned this place was there for years and I never had a problem[I've been here 22 years] and on thisd property for better than 40 years as I bought this residence from my best friends parents sohere is where I sit. There is much more to this situation I just wanted to give the basics. If you were to see how much runoff he dumps on my well you would be shocked, the well guy was shocked when he was here the other day.

Falling wall
by: Anonymous

Hi my neighbour concreted his back yard as I am on the bottom of the hill in heavy rain the water over flows in my yard causing soil erosion and now my retaking wall is falling over when he concreted he never put in any drainage so he keeps asking me to fix it because it will cause his house to crack as I explained to him a wall will not fall over by it self it been there for nearly 30 years very solid as I told him I'm not wasting my money from a problem caused by the increase in over flow water into my property and if I put up a new wall it's just going to do the same

We have laws for a reason
by: Roughdesigns

Use them
1. Retaining walls: Most codes - people on the high side of a retaining wall are responsible for maintaining it.
2. Site drainage: EVERY BUILDING CODE I've ever heard of (most now based on same model code) requires owner to dispose of site water on their site, or in sewers.
3. "Living" with bad neighbors. I've had an endless string of 'bad' neighbors buying to flip properties, and EVERY one of the thought they could enrich their properties at my expense, and NOT ONE OF THEM got to. They found me at city council hearings - they found my attorney when they tried to take land, they found a State Police Captain personally apologizing to me for his officers incorrect actions - a police officer thought use his fellow cops to help when we complained about his septic tank overflowing on our land.
4. When the law is behind you, get a good attorney who WANTs to help you stand up for your right - ASK HIM / HER - and not just a meal ticket - Your attorney needs an architect for supporting opinions. Find one who specializes in doing so.
5. Caveat: If there is a natural watercourse from your land to neighbours, BOTH must maintain the watercourse exactly as is. Any action by either to alter course, depth, height, or capacity will be held against them by any court

Alternatively, put in suggested drainage (see other postings, hide damaged retaining walls with planters, then SELL and find someplace with good neighbours.

bad neighbor
by: Anonymous

I wrote to you last year about our problem, and here is an update...After contacting the State and the DNR, we were directed to the County and the County pointed fingers at the village...More foot dragging and nothing was done, neighbor was given an order to open up the berm or risk arrest and he never complied and with elections going on this spring in the village, we do not expect any help from the village at all.
Every lawyer we contact says they don't do that type of work, click....buzzzzzz.
What kind of lawyer do we actually need to hire?
We looked at the National Bar Association and found 1 or 2 who are located 200 miles from our house which makes me think that my search entries might be wrong...Thank you so much

Finding a Lawyer for Drainage Problems - Neighbors
by: Susan

Why don't you contact some local Landscape Architecture firms and also Engineering firms to see who are the lawyers they use. They should be used to working with lawyers who work with land issues such as grading and drainage.

unbelievable
by: Anonymous

This is illegal and could result in them paying for any damages you can think up! As a landscape architect, I would suggest a french drain along wall that sits 12" or so under grade elevation with decorative gravel to cover it. You could select plants to help give the area character but be sure you use plants that are ok in wet climates but also in normal climate for your area. I have seen and designed some great resolutions to the exact same problem you seem to have.

Neighbor installed fence causing flooding over my septic tank
by: ben

My neighbor down slope from me installed a concrete fence along the property line. The fence blocked the natural flow of water causing flooding over my septic tank and leaching field. What legal recourse do I have to remedy this situation?

We have this problem....
by: Anonymous

We have this same problem and even hired a lawyer. We contacted the state, TCEQ, local authorities and no one will help us. Our neighbor has destroyed our property and not one person even a paid lawyer wants to be involved. He diverted a creek by building dams. The dams could no hold the creek water in his stock tanks (Pond) it overflowed into his property and he actually dug a trench to our property to get it out of his and has now created a creek through our property and the other ranch owners.

Use the insurance route
by: Anonymous

Depending what state you are in you may have legal rights to demand their commercial insurance information. I would write to landscaper and ask them for their declarations page of their Commercial General Liability Insurance policy and state that you are filing a claim for property damage. Your state may also have nuisance laws and you may have mental anguish recovery too. If work was done by the homeowner, I would write to them (all certified letters) asking for a copy of their homeowners insurance declarations page and that you are filing a claim with them. If no response go to small claims court and ask the judge to help you secure the information.

Not so sure it's illegal, necessarily
by: Anonymous

If the neighbor was regrading back to the original grade of the landscape, e.g. to combat erosion that has altered water flow and is threatening damaging their home/foundation, I'm not sure that would be illegal in all places. After all, it's just re-implementing the original plan. If it causes flooding on the neighbors property, this would simply mean they too need to regrade. Though the nice thing to do would be to notify them in advance of such work...

Grade remedy
by: Anonymous

Contact your city hall building department and ask them to look at the change to the grading on your neighbor's properties. Once the city reviews and sees their grading change has made your property a flood zone the city will send them a notice to remedy within a certain amount of time or the city will send violation notice to the neighbors.
This should NOT cost you a penny, as you made no changes.

Sam problem - legislation needed
by: Judy B.

Former neighbor caused my townhome to flood repeatedly. He refused to correct the problems he caused and I was powerless to do it myself. Toxic mold grew inside the shared wall, made me sick and forced me to move out. I have owned my home since 1998, and as a disabled senior, I cannot afford such a loss. I tried everything to try to resolve the problem but without success. I even represented myself in court. I have learned - the hard way - that the legal system as it exists today does not protect us in situations like this. Legislation is badly needed. If you would like to join with me to fight for this, please contact me at jberneske@gmail.com.

Developr flooding me
by: Anonymous

We have a developer that is flooding us! Volumes and volumes of storm water runoff from them developing a site into an apartment complex. City refuses to help. Environmental agency not much use. Nothing to do but pay an attorney thousands of dollars to sue them. Thankfully it's in pasture land and not near any buildings, but, they have ruined an acre of land.
I feel for everyone that is being flooded. Even though there are laws in place, the only way to have them enforced is through an expensive lawsuit. It's really sad that no one seems to care how they effect others around them

Legal solution unavailable NEW
by: Judy B.

There is NO WAY to make a bad neighbor do anything - at least that's the way it is here in Alabama! Attorneys tell me they can't make anyone do anything, that all they can do is get money for me. A timely and simple fix would be my first choice. But if that isn't possible, I could accept money instead... but only if I could recover that I have invested in my home... so I could buy another one. But Alabama state law makes that impossible. So I am left homeless regardless! It will take new legislation to correct the root issues here and hold adjoining neighbors accountable.

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"Susan,  what a pleasure it was to work with you.  You made me feel like I was your only client - responding late at night and always so quickly!  Your design is amazing and we only hope we can do justice to it when we plant.  You have such fantastic ideas and you are so open to suggestions and changes.  Loved working with you - now if you could only come to Canada and plant it!!!"
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