A drainage easement allows the owner of a property to drain water accumulated from precipitation off of his property and onto an adjacent property without legal penalty. The impact of a drainage easement on a property’s value depends on several factors, some of which may be unique to the specific property.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
As a rule of thumb, drainage easements may only slightly affect a property if the water is diverted to a nearby body of water, or if the area that collects drainage is relatively small. But if the drainage area cuts a wide swath through the property, or if water accumulates near a building or other structure on the property, the value of the property may be devalued.
Surveying the Property
Before purchasing a property, hiring a surveyor will allow you to know not only the size of the property and the exact location of the property lines, but also the existence of any easements. The surveyor’s report will also detail the exact location and size of the drainage easement, which can help you assess the impact of the drainage easement on the property and its value.
Assessing the Severity of Drainage
How much a drainage easement affects a property’s value depends on the severity of the drainage. If the area of the property that captures drainage from adjoining properties constitutes only a small portion of the total property’s size, the effect on the property’s value will be less. Accommodations on the property to manage the drainage also affects the impact of the drainage on the property and subsequently its value.
If the property has a drainage field with a drain to divert the water to a nearby body of water, the impact on the property’s value will not be as severe as if the drainage runs into a flat portion of the property or if it accumulates near a building where damage to the property may occur.
Appraising the Property Value
Before conceding to any easement on your property, you should have an appraiser determine not only the value of your property but also the effect it will have on your property’s value. Calculating the exact effect a drainage easement will have on your property’s value is not a straightforward task, since market forces in the future will decide the value of your property.
An appraiser helps determine a dollar amount that would compensate you for any damage to your property. According to appraisal service IRWA, a drainage easement has a “major impact on surface use” for the property, affecting the future use of the property along with its value.
Removing the Easement
Removing a drainage easement may not be possible legally, depending on the local laws concerning water drainage. For example, in Iowa, the owners of a property that sits lower than the adjacent property cannot by law block any drainage runoff coming off the property of higher elevation, even if the drainage damages their property.
If you are able to remove the easement from your property through negotiation or legal action on your part, you will need to engineer the property so drainage no longer accumulates on the property. Depending on the layout of your property and the size of the drainage, among other factors, the cost of altering your property to eliminate drainage may be high. Those who wish to purchase the property in the future may take these factors into consideration.