Problems and Frequently Asked Questions

In some neighbourhoods, complications may arise between neighbours if drainage is not properly designed. Most problems can be resolved with open communication. Neighbouring property owners have an equal interest in effective drainage of surface water. The City's representatives (Lot Grading Inspectors) are not mandated to act as dispute arbitrators, but are available to investigate surface drainage problems and enforce the provisions of the Surface Drainage Bylaw. If you are experiencing problems, there are several things you can do:
  • Check your own surface drainage, and see our FAQ for answers to your questions about common drainage disputes.
  • Talk to your neighbours to work out solutions. They may not realize there is a problem.
  • Contact a professional, such as a landscaper or foundation drainage expert.
  • If property has been damaged, try mediation (see related links) before you consider legal action against the offender.
  • If attempts to find a solution have not resulted in satisfactory drainage arrangements, you can contact the Municipality to investigate. A Lot Grading Inspector will examine surface drainage conditions on both properties, and make recommendations for improvements. A Letter of Non-Compliance or Notice to Comply will be sent for infractions of the Surface Drainage Bylaw. Property owners must then take steps to bring their property in to compliance with the bylaw, or face fines.
Frequently Asked Questions

Building a city drainage system that guarantees protection against flooding is impossible. Many homes and commercial areas were built prior to the development in 1993 of city-wide surface drainage plans and procedures. Every homeowner needs to look at their own lot grading, and then take the necessary steps to prevent flooding and property damage, and avoid any disputes with neighbours over lot grading and surface drainage problems.

1. How can I stop flooding on my property (yard or basement) caused by discharge from my neighbour's downspout or sump pump?

Check your own lot grading. Most homes over 5 years have settlement around the foundation walls. Remember, downspouts only pick up roof drainage. If both houses have proper slope away and proper drainage swales then the discharge of the downspout and/or sump pump would be directed off the lot. Have you ever considered where your surface run-off would go if your neighbour's house was not there?

2. My neighbour's downspout (roof drain)- previously connected to a storm service inside the house- now drains on to my property. What should I do?

Many homes in older areas had their downspouts connected to the storm system. Flooding often occurs during a heavy rainstorm when the storm system is flowing at high capacity, causing the system to back up. Disconnecting the downspouts from the storm system allows roof drainage to flow on to the ground before reaching the catch basin in the street. However, this will cause problems if the grading around the house and adjacent properties is not adjusted to accommodate the flow.

3. I live in an older neighbourhood. My neighbour has built a new house with a higher surface elevation than surrounding properties. Are there set standards for drainage elevation, and what should I do to avoid drainage problems?

This is called in-fill housing (that is a new house built in an older area). In these cases, the builders must conform to the provisions of the Surface Drainage Bylaw, which prohibits drainage onto adjacent properties. Matching the existing grade at the common property line is normal practice for these developments. Adjacent homeowners must consider their own grading. They should be aware that under the Alberta Building Code and Surface Drainage Bylaw, new homes are required to have a 10% slope away from the foundation walls.

4. My neighbour's re-graded lot is higher than mine. What should I do to prevent flooding on my property?

Check your own lot grading and foundation drainage. Then speak with your neighbour. Remember! Surface water will follow the grade of least resistance. If you have a poor or negative grade, the surface water will flow towards your foundation wall increasing the risk of basement flooding.

5. My neighbour's new sidewalk is at a higher elevation and water runs into my yard. What should I do?

Effective side-lot drainage requires the co-operation of both property owners. Check your own lot grading and foundation drainage, then speak with your neighbour. Ask them if they can construct a retaining wall to catch the surface drainage, or re-direct the downspout discharge or sump pump discharge to force the surface drainage to flow towards the front street or back lane.

6. I am from a law firm, checking the status of a property. Can I find out if Final Grade Approval was issued?

The Municipality can provide that information under the Freedom of Information Policy (FOIP). However, they require a written request including property address and legal description. The letter can be mailed, faxed or e-mailed to Drainage Services and will respond generally within 2 working days.

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