Can I hold my neighbor responsible for damage from erosion stemming from their property onto mine?

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Can I hold my neighbor responsible for damage from erosion stemming from their property onto mine?

I live on a hill adjacent to a privately owned vacant
lot in California. The adjacent lot is downhill from
my property and due to the recent rains, the land has
eroded into a steep vertical slope and may continue
to erode towards my property. Can I hold the owner
of the adjacent empty lot responsible if any damage
occurs to my property because of this erosion? Is the
property owner responsible of maintaining the
property even tho it is empty? And is there Legal
action to force the property owner to fix the eroded
hillside before any further damage may occur?
Thank you for any help you can provide.

Asked on April 5, 2017 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If the owner is *aware* of a threat of harm or damage posed by a condition on his property (like erosion undermining your land) and despite notice, refuses to take reasonable protective or corrective steps, you can hold him liable for any damage which does occur. This means--
1) His knowledge is crucial--if he did not know, he would not be liable, since in that case, he did nothing wrong--he had no reason to act. Send him written notice of the pending problem with photographic documentation, sent some way you can prove delivery, to show that he has knowledge of the situation.
2) You can't prophylactically or proactively force him to fix or correct the situation: he can wait and  see if harm does develop and take the chance that he will be sued. All you can do is sue him for any resulting damage.


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