Neighbor Liable for Flood Damage Caused by Corral Construction

A family lives in a Cave Creek area in a community of five-acre “Ranchette” homes. The next door neighbor built a corral in his backyard and now it seems that every time that there is any rain, their backyard floods. The reason for this flooding is that the construction of the corral changed the natural slope of the land so that the runoff from the neighbor’s backyard now goes right into their backyard. In a heavy rain this runoff goes into their swimming pool and floods the back patio. They complained to the neighbor but refused to do anything and says that his backyard is his own private property. Is there an Arizona real estate law or something we can do to stop this flooding from the neighbor’s backyard due to the construction of this horse corral?

Yes. The general rule of Arizona real estate law is that a property owner cannot use his property in a manner that will cause harm to his neighbor’s property. Specifically, a property owner cannot change the natural pattern of rainfall runoff on his property if the result will be flooding of his neighbor’s property. The liability of the property owner for this rainfall runoff damage is based on the 1868 English court decision of Rylands v. Fletcher. In this decision the House of Lords (similar to the U.S. Supreme Court) ruled that a property owner was liable for damage to his neighbor’s mining operation due to rainfall runoff after construction by the property owner of a reservoir on his property. Similarly, the homeowner should have a claim against the neighbor for any damages that are the result of flooding due to the construction of the neighbor’s corral, as well as the cost of any improvements to protect the property.l as the cost of any improvements to protect the property.

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