I live below my neighbor, and when it rains the water flows down onto my property causing flooding. Can I build a dam or other drainage system to prevent this?

West Virginia follows the “common-enemy” rule, where water is considered a common enemy of landowners and each landowner has the right to fight surface water as he chooses. However, the landowner must exercise this right reasonably. The landowner must act in good faith, with care to avoid injury, and with no purpose to infringe on another landowner’s rights. This means you may make reasonable efforts to drain water off of your property if you take care to avoid causing harm to your neighbor. However, you may not divert or dam the water unreasonably without regard to your neighbor’s property. Also, you may not dig ditches or other drainage systems that collect surface water and dump it onto someone else’s property or you may be held liable.  

For more information, see: Gillison v. Charleston, 16 W. Va. 282 (1880); Morris Assocs. v. Priddy, 181 W. Va. 588, 383 S.E.2d 770 (1989); 1A Michie’s Jurisprudence Adjoining Landowners § 10 (2007); Doyle, D., Smith, D., Ferrise, A., Real Property: Landowners’ Rights and Responsibilities in West Virginia, http://www.wvu.edu/~agexten/forglvst/Bulletins/rd726.pdf (last visited June 15, 2015).