Drainage Conflicts with Your Neighbour

This eReference tool is not a substitute for specialized legal advice. Always consult a lawyer before implementing any drainage changes to your property or operations or considering any legal action.

Achieving good drainage often involves agreement among neighbours on the best course of action. There is no reason to expect this to be difficult, but there are, unfortunately, times when conflicts arise.

So, you've got a drainage issue with your neighbouring property owner. For example, water is being discharged on your land or being outletted to your private ditch. You've tried negotiating a solution with your neighbour, but to no avail. What are your options?

If you have determined the problem doesn't involve a mutual agreement drain or municipal drain constructed under the Drainage Act – and doesn't involve an award drain constructed under the Ditches and Watercourses Act – there may be different legislation or avenues to help solve these problems.

This section provides information on what laws apply, and provides options to address situations with your neighbours. The following questions are addressed:

What law applies?

Drainage disagreements or conflicts between property owners generally fall into the realm of common law. The courts make decisions, called case law, which guide decisions for future cases. Case law may apply to the extent that it has not been altered or superseded by a statute passed by provincial or federal governments.

Who enforces these types of problems?

Government ministries or agencies enforce statute law. If no statute law applies to or governs the drainage problem with your neighbour, there is no means for any ministry or department of the federal, provincial or municipal governments to enforce anything.

How are drainage problems solved?

Before trying to resolve a problem, consider consulting a lawyer. The information provided here is general information on drainage – how the law relates to any specific situation can only be determined through the courts. Your lawyer is the most appropriate person who can advise you on your rights and obligations for your individual situation.

The courts' position on drainage disputes can be found by researching applicable case law. Some of this is summarized in the factsheet Top 10 Common Law Drainage Problems Between Rural Neighbours. Further explanation of the principles adopted by the courts is contained in this website – but this site is not a substitute for good legal advice. Always consult a lawyer if a professional legal opinion is needed.

Even though the courts have the ultimate decision on drainage disputes, neighbours should try to reach some common ground and solve the problem without going to court. Court rulings may not make either side happy. This reference tool is intended to help rural neighbours come to their own solutions and avoid taking legal action against each other.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca