TMLG has represented numerous clients whose properties have experienced landslides or slumps. Landslides are often multi-party events that involve municipalities, homeowners’ associations, and neighbors. We focus these cases on repairing the land as soon as possible in an appropriate and cost-effective manner. We are well-versed in both the plaintiffs’ point of view and the defendants’ point of view, having represented both over the years. Many cases require an understanding of insurance law in order to reach resolution. We select an appropriate team of experts including geotechnical engineers, geologists and appraisers to ensure success.
If surface or near surface waters are focused onto your property, an “emergent” wetlands problem may occur. Stopping illegal flows to your property is an essential first step to reclaiming your land. TMLG attorneys have obtained cooperation from countless neighbors without resorting to litigation. However, if a court order is necessary, we know how to obtain those as well.
Flooding can be from many sources—surface water flows, groundwater, streets, pipes, rivers or lakes—to name just a few. The “rules” concerning surface water flows and riparian or river-linked flows are different. The facts of each case need to be carefully considered and analyzed to evaluate what steps can be taken to address the cause or causes of flooding. Once you have experienced a flood, you should not have to relive the experience and the ongoing devaluation of your property. We have helped many people over the years solve their flooding problems.
Some municipalities in the Northwest have combined sewer and surface water systems. In large storm events the pipes in these systems can become full and “surcharge,” sending flows into the side sewers of private homes. Sewage flows in your home present a health problem and must be immediately addressed. A sewage flooding event usually has a greater negative impact on the value of your home than a similar surface water event. We focus on solving the problem in order to prevent re-occurrences.
Tree cases are often very controversial and cause disputes between neighbors. For example, issues may arise about trees that grow on a common property line and are owned jointly by the adjacent property owners. In addition, when trees threaten the property of our clients, we have successfully had them removed. We have also prevented the cutting down of a healthy tree that was characterized as dangerous in order for a neighbor to expand his or her view. In Washington, the wrongful cutting down of a tree can result in triple damages and reimbursement of attorney and expert fees. We try to resolve these cases as quickly as possible.
The first order of business with a rockery is to determine its location with regard to the property lines. The next order of business is to determine its function. If a rockery is completely on your property but supports your neighbor’s natural yard, you cannot remove it. Rockeries often straddle or meander over adjacent properties. You will need your neighbor’s cooperation to address it. A failing rockery can also begin to encroach onto your property. There is often disagreement about the need to replace a rockery, the choice of a replacement, the cost of a replacement and the fair apportionment of that cost. We have resolved these types of disputes for numerous clients, homeowners’ associations and businesses.
Slumps, Set-downs and Cave-Ins
In the urban setting, we have rarely seen a “natural” slump, set-down or cave in. Oftentimes there is a pipe under pressure that has been leaking from a pin point hole. A sudden increase in groundwater flows can occur due to a broken downspout, a leaking hot tub or some other man-made source.
If a municipality is involved, it is important to insist that the cause of the condition be investigated. Prematurely filling the area in with a mixture of cement and water known as “slurry” or having fill brought in may cover up the problem, but not solve it.
If you live on a river, you can expect some erosion of its banks in large storm events. However, a dramatic increase in the rate of erosion can indicate illegal changes on the river. Riparian owners may direct the natural surface flows from their property to the river. However, they cannot exceed the natural capacity of the river with these flows and they are not allowed to direct additional, non-natural flows to the river. An investigation into upstream changes may reveal that additional street flows have been directed to the river or a development’s retention detention system is not retaining flows properly.
Sometimes, upstream riparian owners will change their riverbanks by adding large boulders or small rocks called “rip rap” to them. This, in turn, can change the flow regime and direction of the stream itself. The new flows could be directed for the first time at areas of your bank that are susceptible to erosion. You do not want to simply move the erosion problem downstream like your neighbor did. Erosion is not good for fish habitat and it is likely state agencies would be interested in this type of case. These cases require balancing different interests at different times to address the erosion and prevent any future liability on the part of the client to other downstream owners.