Flood management and drainage—landowner rights and responsibilities
Produced in partnership with Simon Tilling and Michael Barlow of Burges Salmon

The following Environment practice note produced in partnership with Simon Tilling and Michael Barlow of Burges Salmon provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Flood management and drainage—landowner rights and responsibilities
  • Sources of rights and responsibilities for flood management and drainage
  • Restrictive covenants
  • Land drainage rights and easements
  • Riparian rights and responsibilities
  • Rights and responsibilities under statute
  • Rights under old forms of tenure
  • Responsibilities under the law of nuisance and the rule in Rylands v Fletcher
  • The scope of nuisance and the rule in Rylands v Fletcher
  • Development of the case law—actions to divert flood water may amount to a nuisance
  • More...

Flood management and drainage—landowner rights and responsibilities

Sources of rights and responsibilities for flood management and drainage

The law relating to flood management and drainage dates back to the nineteenth century and developed within the ambit of land law. At that time, flood management and drainage were treated as a private law matter to be managed between neighbouring landowners. Gradually, public policy has changed to recognise flooding as a problem faced by society as a whole, with public authorities now taking key roles in preventing and managing flooding on behalf of communities. Nevertheless, many of the key rights and responsibilities relating to flooding and drainage today still attach to, and run with, ownership of land.

It is important that landowners understand their rights and responsibilities in relation to flooding and drainage. Landowner rights and responsibilities are often the first area that will need to be considered where a flooding dispute arises.

This Practice Note explains the main sources of landowner rights and responsibilities for flood management and drainage and the key points for landowners to be aware of.

Restrictive covenants

When considering the rights and responsibilities of landowners for flood management and drainage, the starting point is the title register or other title documents relating to land charges:

  1. the conveyance for a property may include specific covenants to require a landowner to maintain watercourses or flood defences

  2. restrictive covenants phrased

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