CA Real Estate
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The owner of the uphill property has a duty to control the surface waters to not increase the flow of runoff from their property to your property. It is not "your problem" because you are downhill. It is the uphill homeowner's responsibility to not burden your downhill property. The procedure would be for you to send a demand letter to the uphill neighbor for trespass and nuisance to properly divert water runoff so as not to flood your property. You could even request mediation in your demand letter. Then sue in court if they do not comply.
Sorry, you're right. When you're an attorney, you tend to see every legal problem as a nail and your one hammer is litigation.
It's not as simple as pointing you to a code section. It is the California Supreme Court Case of Keys v. Romley (1966) 64 C2d 396 that explains the law of surface waters in California (which follows the civil law rule that landowners should not change the course of surface waters and will be held liable for an adjoining landowner's damages when the natural course is changed. In your situation, the upper landowner removed ground cover and trees to increase the flow of water onto your land causing flooding that didn't happen before.
In my experience, the guy who doesn't do the right thing and makes you show him the law, isn't the guy who goes, "Oh, I see. I'm sorry. I'll change my behavior." I've always had to follow up with a demand letter from an attorney to get a neighbor to do the right thing, especially when it's going to cost him money.
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