Spring makes our gardens grow, but disputes between neighbours can also crop up during this season. Does spring runoff from your neighbour’s property flood yours every year? Know your rights in this situation and your options for resolving a dispute.
Neighbours must keep runoff on their property
There are legal rules for how neighbours must manage water flowing from their property.
The Civil Code of Québec says that property owners must build their roofs so that water, snow, and ice fall on their own land.
It also has rules for neighbouring properties at different elevations. If you own a property at a lower elevation, you can’t do any work that blocks the natural flow of water from higher properties. If you own a property at a higher elevation, you can’t do any work that sends more water to lower properties than naturally flows there.
Finally, your municipality may have rules for how you need to install and position your gutters and downspouts. You can check your municipality’s website or contact the municipality directly to find out more.
Courts could order compensation for damage
Some courts have ordered people to compensate their neighbours when the position of their downspouts sent water to their neighbour’s property and the water couldn’t be absorbed there.
In one case, someone had to pay their neighbour for the inconvenience and loss of enjoyment caused by the standing water.
In another case, someone had to pay their neighbour for the cost of work done to stop water from pooling on their property. However, the work done and its cost must be reasonable for it to be paid back.
Neighbours can try mediation
You have a legal duty to consider other ways to settle your dispute before going to court. There can be many benefits to coming to an agreement.
You can always try talking to your neighbour directly as a first step.
If you think it would be helpful to have someone neutral present for this discussion, invite your neighbour to try mediation! Mediators have training to help people talk through a problem and find a solution that works for everyone.
Équijustice and Association des organismes de justice alternative du Québec (association of alternative justice organizations of Quebec) (French only) are two organizations that offer free and confidential community mediation for disputes between neighbours.
Other community organizations may also offer this type of service. Contact the ones in your area to learn more.