Neighbour disputes. Water damage




Love thy neighbour


Neighbour disputes are unfortunately common and can encompass a wide range of issues. From noise complaints to property boundaries having difficulty negotiating a resolution is part of community living. Whilst there are many potential disputes, they all have different remedies or solutions. Identifying your issue and then following a plan to resolve disputes is the most successful way to an amicable outcome.


Neighbour disputes. Water damageNeighbour disputes. Water damage that can arise in neighbour disputes are:


  • Noise complaints: Excessive noise can be a major source of conflict between neighbours. Local councils typically regulate noise levels and hours during which excessive noise is prohibited.


  • Property boundaries: Disputes over property lines, fences, trees, or landscaping can arise if neighbours disagree about where their property ends and the others begin. This can involve issues such as encroachment or easements.


  • Nuisance: Activities such as keeping a messy yard, harbouring dangerous animals, or allowing a property to fall into disrepair can be considered nuisances if they substantially interfere with a neighbour’s use and enjoyment of their property.


  • Trespassing: If a neighbour repeatedly enters another’s property without permission, it can lead to disputes and potential legal action.


  • Easements: Easements grant someone the right to use another person’s property for a specific purpose, such as accessing a driveway or utility lines. Disputes can arise over the extent of the easement or its misuse.


  • Water Damage: Issues such as drainage problems or flooding from a neighbour’s property can lead to disputes over responsibility for repairs and compensation for damages.


  • Tree and vegetation issues: Disputes over trees, hedges, or other vegetation often involve issues such as overhanging branches, roots damaging property, or blocking views.


  • Harassment and intimidation: Behaviour such as threats, harassment, or intimidation by a neighbour can escalate disputes and may require legal intervention.


  • Pet-related issues: Problems can arise if a neighbour’s pet is noisy, aggressive, or causes damage to property.


  • Body Corporate disputes: strata and community title disputes can arise over violations of community rules, architectural guidelines, or common area maintenance.


A few weeks ago, I was meeting people in my local community and a woman expressed her frustration about a water problem she was encountering with her neighbour. As I was also experiencing a water issue this was particularly interesting.


The issue I have is that my land is higher than my next-door neighbour’s property and when there is a heavy rain water flows into his yard and pools in a corner. We have a very nice relationship and we both tried to fix the problem but the law is quite clear.


Water flowing into neighbour’s land


If the flow is from the natural lay of the land, then people upstream are not responsible for the effect downstream. This is the case with my property and my neighbour was able quite cheaply to redirect the water.


However, if the land owner changes the topography, the land owner is responsible for the downstream flow and directs the water to a suitable outlet.


The laws


Sections 15 to 21 of the Water Act 1989 (the Act) outline instances where an action may be taken against another person in relation to the flow of water. Under Section 15 of the Act, persons may take civil action against another for the unauthorised taking or use of water or for unauthorised works.


Under Section 16 (1) of the Act an individual’s liability arises where:


  • there is a flow of water from the land of a person onto any other land; and


  • that flow is not reasonable; and


  • the water causes injury to any other person, or damage to the property of any other person, or any other person to suffer economic loss.


The person who caused the flow is liable to pay damages to the other person relating to that injury, damage, or loss.


Some situations to which the above might apply include:


  • loss or damage because of an unreasonable flow of water onto your property from another property;


  • loss or damage because someone has interfered with the reasonable flow of water onto your property; and


  • loss and damage because of water flowing onto your property from the works of a water authority, such as a public sewer or stormwater drainage system.


This claim is called nuisance


If you are experiencing flooding due to the actions of your neighbour or a neighbouring property you may also have an action in tort known as nuisance. Nuisance is an action in tort which provides for damages to be awarded where there is interference with the enjoyment of land which is substantial and unreasonable. If claiming private nuisance your claim must not be trivial or unreasonable.


When considering a nuisance claim a court takes into account several factors, including;


  • the general nature of your neighbourhood;


  • where the interference took place;


  • what activity is causing the interference;


  • how long the interference lasted and whether it is ongoing;


  • the time of day or night the interference occurs;


  • the impact the interference is having on you;


  • whether the interference was pre-existing when you moved into your property;


  • how useful or necessary the activity causing the interference is and


  • what reasonable people would think of the interference.


The court determines whether a nuisance is substantial and unreasonable.  An action in nuisance requires an application to a court.  The court may order in some circumstances that a person stop a certain behaviour or action, this is an injunction. Otherwise, the court may order that the neighbour pay compensation (damages).


To conclude


Neighbour disputes are uncomfortable and generally, people do not want any disruption to their peace and harmony. As hard as it is, it is often best to try to resolve the issue amicably through communication and negotiation. A great tip is to ensure that both parties get something positive from the discussion. If that fails, seeking mediation or legal assistance may be necessary. Laws regarding neighbour disputes can vary significantly depending on your location, so perhaps consulting with a local solicitor might be best to provide guidance specific to your situation.