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Stormwater Disputes - Private Properties

Stormwater has the potential to lead to neighbourhood disputes, if not well managed. 

The below information seeks to clarify the roles and moreover the responsibilities of the land holder and other parties; and what can be done in these circumstances.

What is Stormwater?

Stormwater is rainwater that runs off areas such as roofs, lawns and driveways.

Who is responsible for Stormwater on private property?

Generally, it is the responsibility of the private land holder to manage stormwater, as it enters and leaves their land. They must adhere to common law which is about not creating a nuisance to their neighbours, both upstream and especially downstream.

The concentration of the flow of stormwater over what would naturally occur may lead to a nuisance if not properly managed.  

A nuisance might also arise from changes in peak flows, water quality and the like. 

Also the management of stormwater may be governed by various development approvals over the land, including planning approval, operational works permits, and building permits, plumbing and drainage permits.  

Many of these types of permits are issued by Council.

Problems with overland stormwater flow between neighbouring properties are generally a civil matter to be resolved between the respective owners. Council has no legislative powers to intervene.

Can downstream properties refuse to accept any flow of stormwater into their land?

No.  Downstream neighbours must accept the natural run-off from the ordinary use of the upstream land.   

What if stormwater seems to be leading to a dispute between neighbours?

In the first instance, neighbours are encouraged to discuss issues between themselves directly. 

In more complex cases it might be necessary to seek the services of a stormwater engineer to design a stormwater management system for the particular circumstances involved.

What role can Council play in stormwater management disputes?

Council has a limited role with regards to stormwater management disputes. It may:

  • provide what is called a “lawful point of discharge” on its drainage network, which does include roadside kerb and channel,
  • check to see that the conditions of a Council  approval are being complied with, and
  • assess drainage easement documents prior to their registration with the state. 

Where do I go if my stormwater issue results in a dispute?

If stormwater issues cannot be resolved with the services of a consulting engineer and the limited role of Council the next step is mediation. 

Queensland Government’s South Queensland Dispute Resolution Centre can be contacted on 1300 017 288 (toll free outside of Brisbane).  

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