Flooded my neighbor's basement - Posted by Ron (MD)

Posted by Mark (SDCA) on March 19, 2001 at 19:06:43:

One big difference. Lightning is an act of God. This wasn’t. The neighbor TOLD the city to turn the water on. If the neighbor told God to send down the lightning, I still might sue. :))


Flooded my neighbor’s basement - Posted by Ron (MD)

Posted by Ron (MD) on March 19, 2001 at 13:58:03:

I’m rehabbing a house. The water had been turned off by the city prior to my purchase. I called the city to have them come turn it on. They said someone has to be at the property in case there is a plumbing problem inside (which makes sense to me). The city tried twice to turn it on, but (they say) my contractor was not at the property, so they left without turning it on. (They also said that on one of those tries, they turned it on briefly, but could see on the meter that water was running inside, so they turned it back off and left.)

When I learned that it was still not on, I called the water dept. at 1:30 p.m. one day and told them my contractor was there and would be until at least 4:00 p.m. They said they would send someone over as soon as he was finished with his current job.

Well, I don’t know when he showed up, but he turned the water on sometime after the contractor left. Since the house had been winterized by the previous owner, every faucet in the house was left on. Unfortunately, the basement laundry tub was clogged and my basement filled (several inches) with water. This was not a significant problem for me, because the basement was empty, not even painted yet.

Unfortunately, the water seeped through my townhouse foundation wall into the neighbor’s basement and caused considerable damage in her basement (books, furniture, panelling, etc.). I had a handyman rent a pump and remove the water from both basements, but that didn’t do much for the neighbor’s damaged property.

I went to the neighbor the following day and explained the situation to her. My position is that it’s the city’s fault for breaking their own rule and turning on the water in a house with nobody home. I encouraged her to file a claim with the city. (I also filed a small claim for the minor cost to me of pumping out the basements, but I did this primarily to support the neighbor’s claim.) The city sent us each a claim form which stated (in bold print) that it takes them five months to investigate a claim. Not surprisingly, the neighbor wasn’t too happy about that.

Today, a week after the incident, the neighbor called me wanting me to pay for her damages. Frankly, I don’t blame her…I would also be angry if I were in her shoes. She asked for the info about my liability insurance company, which I gave her, after consulting with my agent. (My agent encouraged me to give her name and number to the neighbor so that the neighbor could feel better about filing a claim with my insurer. She also said, however, that my insurer would not cover it. In fact, she said that the neighbor should report it to her own insurer who would probably take care of the damage right away and subrogate against the city.)

So, the questions are: Do I have any liability here? Could/should I have handled this differently?


Ron Guy

Re: Flooded my neighbor’s basement - Posted by JPiper

Posted by JPiper on March 19, 2001 at 17:30:07:

I agree with your agent…she should make a claim to her own insurance company. I can’t see any way you would be held liable.


Re: Flooded my neighbor’s basement - Posted by Mark (SDCA)

Posted by Mark (SDCA) on March 19, 2001 at 16:40:18:

Not a lawyer but… If I were your neighbor, here is my thinking.

  1. All I know is that water from your property flooded my property.

  2. I have no idea what the city’s involvement was so why should I be dealing with them?

  3. Why should I get my insurance company involved in what is your issue? I would be risking cancellation, higher premiums etc if my insurance co cannot get money out of the city. YOU should be taking that risk.

Not what you wanted to hear I expect… Good likc.


Re: Flooded my neighbor’s basement - Posted by Brenda (MD)

Posted by Brenda (MD) on March 19, 2001 at 14:16:55:

Hi Ron,

I had a similar incident, but there was no damage to the neighbors property, only mine. In my case, it was the fault of a home inspector that the buyer had hired, who went into the house accompanied by their realtor. He left the water on and left the house. Five days later I went to the house to let the FHA inspector in, only to find the entire first floor under water! It was clearly the fault of the inspector and the realtor, but my insurance company paid for the repairs and it went to subrogation. Even with everyone’s testimony, the insurance company lost and had to pay for the damages, which I thought was insanely unfair, but I was not held liable for anything, and my buyers got a brand new bathroom, laundry room and family room out of it. Maybe your neighbor’s insurance company will do a similar thing. Its certainly worth pursuing.

Good luck!

Re: Flooded my neighbor’s basement - Posted by Ron (MD)

Posted by Ron (MD) on March 19, 2001 at 18:12:15:


I absolutely agree…I’d be thinking the same thing myself. However, I think it’s similar to lightning knocking down my tree, crushing your car in your driveway. I’m not liable, your insurance must pay.

Doesn’t seem right, but I’m pretty sure that’s the way it works in both cases.

Ron Guy