What is a Drainage Easement?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 February 2020
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A drainage easement is an attachment to a property deed which states that access to part of the property is given to a third party, usually a municipality, for the purpose of maintaining drainage. The drainage easement may include a culvert or drain which feeds into a drainage system or the easement may simply state that runoff needs to be allowed to flow freely over an area of the property. The easement cannot be lifted from the deed unless there are special circumstances, and it will be associated with the deed even when it is transferred or sold.

Easements in general are used to address cases in which someone other than the property owner needs the right to access the property, and the easement comes with the right to use, but not full ownership rights. Another common example of an easement is a road easement, in which part of a property is used for a shared or even public road and an easement protects the rights of others to use that road. Easements are drafted by lawyers who work with the property owner and the parties who need access to ensure that the document is accurate and fair.


In the case of a drainage easement, the easement benefits the property owner as much as it benefits anyone else. In order for a municipal drainage system to work effectively, the municipality needs to ensure that drainage easements are in place so that city workers can access private property in order to maintain and repair drainage areas. For example, if a culvert runs through a property, the drainage easement allows the city to replace it if it is damaged.

If the drainage system does not work properly, the property owner can be at risk of flooding and other problems. In exchange for allowing the municipality to access the property, the property owner gets to enjoy a property which drains freely, and knows that neighbors are also obliged to maintain their drainage easements to ensure that water intrusion will not occur along the property line.

When a drainage easement is in place, there are restrictions on how the easement area can be used. People usually cannot regrade the soil or build structures because this could impede the free flow of water over the property. If there is a culvert or pipe, trees cannot be planted over it, because their roots could block it, and people are expected to keep gratings clear so that the water can drain properly. If people would like to change the terms of the easement, they must reach an agreement with the agency which holds the easement.


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Post 8

The issues below should be redressed with the help of an Attorney.

Post 7

I have a problem my yard. I have the municipality's drain and it always blocks and floods my yard. What can I do?

Post 6

We have just moved into our property and have now been informed by our homeowners that there is a vote to allow a company to run a sewage easement next to our property line! They keep offering our board more money and the fear is that they will accept and we are stuck then with all the mess, etc. this will bring. Any advice on where we stand with this? We have only been here a week and now just floored by this news.

Post 5

I have a drainage easement in my backyard. There is a culvert that stops in my backyard 25' from the rear of my property line, leaving a ditch (10' wide by about 6' deep) running through my property. My question is can I extend the culvert and fill over it, so I can get the maximum space out of my lawn?

Post 4

My next door neigbour has had a drive put in and took his garden out so there was water running out of his drive down the pavement and making it like a river.

We live on a hill, so it runs down past our drive and further down the pavement. The council has given him one month to put drainage in, but now we have noticed that he has put a hole in the wall between our house and his to run the water onto our drive. Our drive is becoming damaged due to this. Is there anything we can do?

Post 3

We have a problem regarding a neighbor who has knocked holes in a boundary wall which we paid for, to allow water to flow from his property into ours. We have installed a drainage trench and pump system to remove storm water from our property into the street.

He has done nothing other than to knock the holes in the wall. We are the last house in the street. Does this mean that we would be responsible for the storm water from all the houses "up stream" being discharged into our property?

Post 2

I built a retaining wall which doesn't need a consent and now must drain from behind said wall. Can I force the neighbor to allow me to use his sump or must I put in my own, which probably would be near impossible?

Post 1

Drainage easements are definitely a necessity to neighborhoods and communities, but when buying property with such an easement you should be very clear on just what the drainage easement restrictions on the property are. A guy in my neighborhood can't use over half of his yard because the city drains water onto it in the spring, forming a pond. He can't fill the area or build anything on it. When he bought the property he thought that drainage easement just meant that they might want to run a culvert through, not take half of his yard for public use. So be sure you know what you're getting into before you get into it.

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