A drainage easement allows for part of an owner’s property to be used for runoff and stormwater drainage purposes. They are typically written in the deed to the property, but a party may argue that it has acquired drainage rights by prescription, as in a September 14, 2018 Massachusetts real estate case. The action was filed in Land Court by a developer seeking to establish its alleged drainage rights in the property of the homeowners.
The developer had purchased a former industrial site and sought approval to redevelop the land. The homeowners lived downhill from the site on abutting property. Stormwater was collected in a catch basin on the developer’s site and funneled into an underground pipe, which traveled beneath the homeowners’ property and eventually dumped the water into a ditch on their property.
The homeowners appeared at a public hearing on the developer’s plans, and questioned whether the developer had the right to drain stormwater onto their property. The developer brought suit against the homeowners, initially asserting that it was entitled to drainage rights pursuant to the deed. After further investigation, the developer conceded that it did not have deeded rights, and instead argued that it had acquired drainage rights by prescription.