Can I insist that my neighbor remove a French drain that he installed through a small portion of my property and without my permission?

I live in a private development. Everyone here has land drainage issues in back and side yards. Between my neighbor and myself is a stormwater waste pipe owned by the city. My next door neighbor built a covered deck. In order to help drain his lot, he had a French drain installed that runs across his property and then runs approximately 8-10 through corner of my property to drain in the stormwater easement behind me. The result was it caused severe erosion of my property corner. To correct, he worked with the city to place riprap stone. He then added to his 4′ black flex pipe so that the water drains into the easement directly vs dumping out on my property. He has now put his home up for sale. The property markers are in place. Can I force him to dig up and reposition his French drain so that it enters the easement from his property and not mine and be done before he sells, or am I better off to work with the new owner? Do I have any recourse?

Asked on May 7, 2017 under Real Estate Law, South Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If he does not have an actual easement on your deed to run the drain through your land and you have also not given any a license to do so, then you can require him to remove and remediate it. No one can use your property without permission, either in the form of an easement or some other agreement with you. You are better off doing this now, since if it causes "bad blood," that soon won't matter, once he sells--you will want a clean start with the new neighbor. Bear in mind that if he refuses to voluntarily move it, your recourse would be to bring a lawsuit in chancery court (a part or division of county count) seeking a court order requiring him to remove this from your property. Actions like this in chancery court are substantially more complex than, say, small claims cases--for a good chance of success, you really will want to have an attorney helping you and can spend thousands of dollars on legal costs. This means that carrying all the way through can be an expensive proposition: make sure you are commited to it before launching this endeavor.

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