Too much or too little water may lead to legal action if a neighbor’s use of water and drainage is deemed “unreasonable”. That is the keyword in determining responsibility for flooding under Ohio law.
Q: My neighbor recently asked me if they could enlarge their driveway towards my house. It is in an area that already attracts standing water and I’ am worried it will push it into my yard. Can I prevent them from doing it?
A: Since they asked I would write them a letter suggesting they install a French drain or other flood prevention between your properties. This would give you a written record of voicing your concerns but it would be hard to prove any damage before the fact and make legal action pre-mature.
Q: As a landowner I am concerned that a recently developed industrial complex has caused my property to start flooding. Never had a problem before but ever since their grading and construction I get flooded. Do I have a reasonable recourse to sue?
A: Yes. In drainage disputes, Ohio law looks at “reasonable-use”. That changing the course of natural run off which then floods a neighbor may be “unreasonable”. If you can prove their work caused the redirect you would be allowed damages restitution and for them to have to remedy the drainage.
Q: The railroad tracks next to my property have a drainage canal next to them that is often neglected and allowed to grow full of weeds. It then blocks the water from the drainage canal and allows it to run it into my yard. Can I sue?
A: Ohio law (O.R.C. §4959.01) directs all railroads to account for their drainage. Maintaining the use and integrity of their designed drainage canal is their responsibility. You have legal recourse, again based on the “unreasonable doctrine” of Ohio drainage responsibility.
In Ohio each County and the County Commissioners make policy for local drainage responsibility, enforcement and can collect funds for public drainage infrastructure maintenence.
Judges and the courts decide land owner disputes for the disposal of surface water. For more details read: everything you could ever want to know about Ohio drainage law