Question: We live in the Cave Creek area in a community of five-acre “Ranchette” homes. Our neighbor built a corral in his backyard and we have noticed now that every time that there wass any rain, our backyard flooded. The reason for this flooding is that the construction of the corral changed the natural slope of the land so that the runoff from our neighbor’s backyard now goes right into our backyard. In a heavy rain this runoff will go into our swimming pool and flood our back patio. When we complain to our neighbor he refuses to do anything, and simply 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 our neighbor’s backyard due to the construction of this horse corral?
Answer: 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, you should have a claim against your neighbor for any damages that are the result of flooding due to the construction of the corral in your neighbor’s backyard, including the cost of any improvements to protect your property.