When there is a downpour, which happens at least a dozen times per year, my next-door neighbor's back yard fills up with water. I mean that the entire back yard looks like a pond, and the grass is not visible.

The way the terrain is shaped, the whole thing drains out the front corner on my side, and flows into my (unfinished) basement, where a sump pump removes the water.

I'm interested to see if there's a more direct way to deliver the water to the storm water catchment system, without it all having to go through my basement first.

I have some remediation ideas that I would like to discuss with him, but first, I'd like to collect background information as to what rights and responsibilities he, and I, might have, with respect to each other, and local authorities.

I don't expect anyone reading this question to have an exact answer. What I'm wondering is (a) where to look, and (b) what key words and phrases to look for. Also (c) please provide an example from some specific municipality you might be familiar with. Lastly, (d) if that example isn't immediately understandable, a plain language explanation of what it's saying.

  • Are you within a city or incorporated town? And by "storm water catchment system" you mean the storm drain on a street? Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 13:39
  • Is the temporary storage of the water in your neighbour's back yard relevant?
    – DJohnM
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 17:09
  • @BlueDogRanch - not sure about the first question -- it's called the "Village of ..." For the second question -- yes, but I think there might be some hook-up to that, in the middle of the lot. Commented Oct 6, 2018 at 4:34

2 Answers 2


This article is a New York State directed guide to the problem. The most important question is, exactly what has the neighbor done to cause the flooding. If this flooding is a natural consequence of the land, the neighbor is not liable. If he has altered the land, he may still not be held responsible. New York follows a form of the "common-enemy" rule, which essentially says that you can do as you want with your land: rainwater is the common enemy that all must guard against. A modification of the rule is that "an upland owner was not entitled to artificially collect surface waters and discharge them in a mass upon the land below to its damage (e.g., by piping or draining into ditches so that surface waters released on lower land caused erosion or flooding)", which may or may not describe your situation.

The case Kossoff v. Rathgeb-Walsh, 3 NY2d 583 is a defining case for drainage law in NY. In this case, the defendant had an upland plot in its natural state, but later blacktopped it without installing a drainage system. The court found that he was not liable for the flooding, because be had a right to develop the property "in good faith to fit the property to some rational use to which it is adapted". The court emphasized that "the water is not drained into the other property by means of pipes or ditches".

  • I would note that your cited case appears to date back to 1958 which precedes the implementation of any stormwater regulations and the founding of the EPA. It's very likely that the case is no longer relevant due to the implementation of stormwater control measures. Commented May 30 at 14:53

If discharge (of anything) from your neighbour’s property damages (including causing inconvenience) your property then your neighbour is trespassing and must stop the discharge and remediate any damage.

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