Hold neighbor responsible for waterline leak

Mailbag

May 12, 2002

Dear Mr. Azrael:

I recently had a new sump pump installed in my townhome. Since then, it has been discharging water continuously, around the clock, at the curbside discharge outlet.

Three visits by two different plumbing companies determined that my neighbor had a leak in his waterline, somewhere between the curb and his house. The neighbor's house is uphill from me.

Consequently, the lower quadrant of my lawn, nearest my neighbor, is saturated and the substance of marsh. We apprised the neighbor of the problem almost two months ago, and the last plumber to visit gave him a detailed explanation of the problem.

How much time should I allow my neighbor to correct this defective water pipe? What legal recourse do I have to remedy this situation?

Beth Cottman-Brown

Baltimore

Dear Ms. Cottman-Brown

You've waited long enough. Your neighbor's broken water pipe has created a dangerous condition for cold weather and has turned part of your lawn into marshland.

Your neighbor's homeowner's insurance probably doesn't cover the cost of repairing the broken water pipe, but it should cover the cost of repairing any damage to your lawn, sidewalks and paving caused by the leaking water.

In general, the law says that a property owner is responsible for damage caused to others by a dangerous condition on the owner's land, including the flow of water from broken pipes or drains.

I suggest that you have your lawyer write a letter to your neighbor making a final request to repair the water pipe and seeking reimbursement for any damages that have been caused to your property.

You will have to support your damage claim with an estimate from a contractor or landscaper. Because water is leaking onto the public street, you may also contact the city or county where you live and ask that they inspect the area. Local authorities may have the power to require your neighbor to take corrective action.

Hopefully, your neighbor will take seriously a letter from a lawyer or a violation notice from the local authority and hire a plumber to fix the leak. If the neighbor still does nothing to repair the pipe, the next step is to see your neighbor in court.

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