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When can you sue another property owner for water damage?

You might think that once you move out of an apartment or condo, your days of worrying about a neighbor causing water damage to your home (maybe from a broken pipe or an overflowing bathtub) are over. However, it's possible for water from a nearby house or other property to cause damage to yours.

Not all water damage can be blamed on a property owner. For example, if your area has endured days of torrential rains, there may be some runoff onto another property -- maybe because it flows naturally downhill.

Where you get in to potential liability is if someone has altered their property in some way that increases the chances and/or amount of water flowing on to someone else's property. Even then, that alteration may be considered reasonable by a court.

A court will look at things like whether:

  • The alteration was important for the maintenance of the other person's property
  • The increased value resulting from the alteration was greater or less than the damage caused to your property.
  • The other property owner could have reasonably foreseen that their alteration would increase the amount of runoff to the point where it would damage your property.
  • The alteration was done negligently

Sometimes, water damage results from carelessness rather than an intentional alteration. These include the examples we mentioned at the beginning. It can also include clogged gutters, broken sprinklers and hoses or water that are left on so long that it damages neighboring property.

If you take another property owner to court over water damage, you will likely seek to have them fix the issue that's causing the problem. In addition to that, you can ask for compensation for expenses and damages for things like:

  • Repair/replacement of your property
  • Hotel bills or other housing expenses if you're required to leave your home because of the damage or while it's being fixed
  • Medical bills for injuries you suffered (maybe from slipping on a floor you didn't expect to be flooded) or even for psychological care if you suffered emotional distress

If you can show that the other property owner was acting maliciously for some reason, you may be able to seek punitive damages as well.

If you're having issues like any of those discussed here, and you haven't been able to resolve them with your neighbor, it may be wise to consult with an attorney.

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