Who's Responsible if Your Home's Downspouts Run Water into a Neighbor's Basement?

(And whose insurance has to pay for it)
Christine Lacagnina Written by Christine Lacagnina
Christine Lacagnina
Written by Christine Lacagnina

Christine Lacagnina has written thousands of insurance-based articles for TrustedChoice.com by authoring consumable, understandable content.

paul martin Reviewed by Paul Martin
paul martin
Reviewed by Paul Martin

Paul Martin is the Director of Education and Development for Myron Steves, one of the largest, most respected insurance wholesalers in the southern U.S.

You flood neighbor's basement

You work hard as a responsible homeowner to keep your home well maintained and safe, not only for guests but also for your neighbors. But what happens when, after a bad rain storm, all the water from your downspouts ends up flooding your neighbor’s basement? Who’s responsible for this mess, anyway?

Luckily, an independent insurance agent can help you answer this question and get you set up with the proper coverage. Independent insurance agents have tons of experience handling all kinds of claims, including the most obscure scenarios you could imagine. They’ll help you find all the coverage you need, long before you ever need it. Here’s how they’d help you get protected against your rainwater flooding a neighbor’s basement.

What Happens if Your Downspouts Push Your Rainwater into a Neighbor’s Basement?

Well, if your neighbor suspected that your negligence caused your downspouts to push the water into their basement, they could sue you. However, they’d probably start by filing a claim through their homeowners insurance before taking legal action, though they could press charges against you first too. But if your neighbor did decide to sue you for their basement flood, it would most likely be a tricky case for them to prove your negligence.

When Would I Be Held Responsible for My Neighbor’s Basement Flood?

The only way you could be held liable in this situation is if your neighbor had solid proof of your negligence in maintaining your downspouts. More than likely, however, your downspouts probably weren’t in a state of disrepair or neglect. It’s more likely that there was just a really bad storm that overwhelmed your downspouts to the point of some of the water getting pushed towards your neighbor’s house. In this case, you couldn’t be held liable for the flood.

How Does Property Insurance Help in This Scenario?

If your neighbor were to file a claim for their basement flood through their homeowners insurance, it might be tough to get it approved. Natural water sources that cause flooding within the home are typically not covered by homeowners insurance. The only way a storm causing bad indoor flooding would be covered is if, upon inspection, a hole was discovered in the dwelling.

Otherwise, if your neighbor could prove your negligence in this case, they would go ahead and file the claim through their homeowners insurance. Their homeowners insurance company would pay to repair the damage to your neighbor’s basement, and then it would reach out to your homeowners insurance company to recoup their losses since it was your fault.

When Are Basement Floods Covered and Not Covered?

The only cases in which flooding within the home is covered by homeowners insurance is if the source of the flooding also came from within the home. For example, defective plumbing that leaks or causes flooding is covered. Also, a broken major appliance that causes an indoor flood would be covered.

Natural water sources that lead to water coming inside the home from outdoors are not covered. Flood damage due to storms like hurricanes and tsunamis do not qualify for reimbursement through homeowners insurance. For natural disaster flooding, you’d need a separate flood insurance policy, which is only available through the National Flood Insurance Program.

How Would This Incident Affect Premiums?

If you’re the neighbor with the flooded basement, fortunately your homeowners insurance premium shouldn’t be affected. Insurance companies don’t typically punish homeowners for a single incident like this, especially if it wasn’t their fault. However, if you were to file these kinds of claims often or it became a trend, your insurance provider may decide to hike up your premium or even not renew your contract past its expiration date.

If you are the one whose downspouts caused the flooding, it’s still probably unlikely that your premiums will be affected. First of all, it would be really tough for your neighbor to prove your negligence in causing their basement flood. And once again, a single incident such as this typically isn’t likely to cause a spike in your premium.

What if My Neighbor Took Legal Action against Me?

If your neighbor thought they had a case against you in their basement’s flooding, they could choose to press charges against you. However, they may have a hard time proving your negligence in not properly maintaining your downspouts, so you may not end up being held liable for the event. In any case, your neighbor and you would rely on the liability coverage section of your homeowners insurance.

Liability coverage under homeowners insurance provides the following protections:

  • Legal fees: Liability coverage pays for attorney, court, and legal fees, including any settlements you may be ordered to pay in the event you are found responsible for the claim.
  • Medical payments: Your liability coverage also pays for injuries to a third party, such as your neighbors or their guests, in the event they get hurt. If someone was home when your neighbor’s basement flooded and got hurt in the incident, and you were found to be responsible for the flood, your liability coverage would pay for their injuries.

Legal cases can be extremely stressful, costly, and time-consuming. Fortunately, homeowners insurance provides some relief through the liability coverage aspect of the policy.


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Other Common Risks You Should Consider Coverage For

In addition to overwhelmed downspouts causing a neighbor’s basement to flood, there are plenty of other property damage risks that homeowners absolutely need to consider protecting. Fortunately, the following common perils are also covered by under the property damage section of standard homeowners insurance policies:

  • Fire
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Building collapse
  • Sinkhole collapse
  • Automatic sprinkler leakage
  • Lightning
  • Volcanic action
  • Most explosions
  • Windstorms/hail
  • Accidental fire and resulting smoke damage
  • Riot/civil commotion
  • Certain types of water/other liquid damage

An independent insurance agent will help to consider all risks unique to your home and ensure that you get set up with all the property damage coverage you could ever need. They’ll also be able to review your specific insurance policy and spot coverage gaps in any areas of concern. If you’re lacking protection in an area, they’ll help to patch those holes.

Here’s How an Independent Insurance Agent Would Help

When it comes to protecting against your downspouts flooding a neighbor’s basement and all other strange incidents, no one’s better equipped to help than an independent insurance agent. Independent insurance agents search through multiple carriers to find providers who specialize in homeowners insurance, deliver quotes from a number of different sources and help you walk through them all to find the best blend of coverage and cost.

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