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New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country. As development continues across the state, flooding disputes between residential neighbors are becoming increasingly common.
Generally, a residential property owner is not responsible for the natural stormwater drainage pattern. This means that if your property sits at a lower elevation than your neighbor’s, your neighbor is not responsible for any natural puddling, flooding, or resulting damage caused by this natural change in elevation.
New Jersey follows what is commonly known as the “reasonable use rule.” This means that residential neighbors can potentially be held liable for damage caused by flooding that is a result of their “unreasonable” alterations to their property. Such alterations may include the addition of impervious surface such as a patio or paved driveway, or the placement of drainage pipes to reroute stormwater. Essentially, anything that unreasonably alters or interferes with the natural flow or drainage pattern, which in turn causes flooding and damage to a neighboring property. The question of reasonableness is determined on a case-by-case basis upon consideration of the facts and context of each specific matter.
Flooding can cause serious damage to property, including disrupting the home’s foundation in severe cases. Neighbors who have suffered damages due to intensified flooding may be able to pursue compensation for the damages they have suffered. It is always best to try and work these issues out amicably to avoid unnecessary expense, but often when these attempts are fruitless, the services of a capable land use attorney are necessary.
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