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I've recently been reviewing property that is available either at auction or for immediately for purchase from the various counties in the state of TExas. Most of them are simply what you would expect, lots of little value or that are not worth developing.

However, I've noticed that a large number of lots available appear to be stormwater basins for the surrounding communities and business. It looks like they were issued a completely separate deed and then simply stopped paying the property taxes. In some cases, it has been like this for 20+ years. Some of these appear to be deliberate construction and others are natural low lying areas.

What happens if I go buy the deed to one of these lots? I'm aware there is no way I'd conceivably ever get an actual construction permit to build anything on the property. I'm also not talking about doing anything to sabotage the drainage, like plugging the drains that feed it with cement.

I'm specifically concerned about the state of Texas, as otherwise I feel this question is way too broad. A few distinct cases I have considered are

  1. Can I use the land for hiking?
  2. Can I use the land for tent camping?
  3. Could I park an RV on the land?
  4. If the drain exits became blocked by no action of my own (perhaps an animal carcass is plugging the drain), could I charge someone a reasonable fee to enter my property so they could fix it?

I'm aware that in all cases I'd be subject to flash floods, but this would now be me on my own private property.

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The answers may differ for each stormwater basin — depending on the covenants and easements that may run with the land. To get precise answers, you would need to obtain these records for each title you are interested in.

It would not be totally impossible that some or all of those basins go with use restrictions attached to them. For example, the owner could:

  • be responsible for not obstructing the drains;
  • have to give access to local authorities and contractors for inspection and maintenance of the drains.

If no explicit restrictions are attached, you would legally be able to use the basin like any other piece of land. But if you block the drains with cement and cause flooding in your neighborhood, you could still face claims of breach of duty of care.

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