How Close Can You Build to a Drainage Easement? What You Need to Know

By Viet Nguyen Written by Viet Nguyen
Updated on September 13, 2023

Finding where to build the house of your dreams can be a headache-inducing matter, as there are a lot of different factors that come into play when you choose where to place the first stones. One of the most common questions that homeowners tend to ask is “how close can you build to a drainage easement?” This certainly is not an easy question to answer, but this article contains the information you need to navigate through this difficult question. 

Can you build near a drainage easement?

It is a good idea to start with a bit of information about drainage easements. Drainage easements are quite common in the US. It is a part of your property that is chiefly for the purpose of drainage. In general, the city cannot do anything to your drainage easement. However, you are also not allowed to do certain things close to your drainage easement as well. 

You cannot build any improvement on the drainage easement, as a general rule of thumb. However, it does not mean that you cannot build one near the easement. You can, in fact, build your home near a drainage easement. The question is how close you can build to one.

How close can you build to a drainage easement: New York 

When it comes to drainage easements in New York, the law is actually quite clear. It is advisable to steer clear of the drainage easement area if you wish to avoid getting in trouble with the local authority.

Under New York law, you shall not make any modification at all to your drainage easement, which includes acts such as building a fence, pools, or buildings on the drainage easement. The law does not seem to specifically say how close you can build to it without incurring a fine, so it is generally a good idea to stay away from the drainage easement in this case. 

How close can you build to a drainage easement: Los Angeles

In the city of LA, you might be able to build over drainage easement in some cases, but you must apply for a permit beforehand. There is no guarantee that your application, referred to as “Buildover Agreement” by the local government, is going to be approved, as the board shall look at the applications on a case-by-case basis.

When you apply for a permit, include the following documents: A map showing the location of the improvements; a site plan; calculated footing and traffic loadings; and a foundation plan. 

How close can you build to a drainage easement: Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., is the capital of the country, so you can expect some stricter regulations. The general rule of thumb is the same in other areas: You cannot build any improvements on a drainage easement. You should keep the closest buildings or improvements at least 25 feet away from the easement to make sure that you do not get into any trouble with the local regulators.

There does not seem to be any way to ask for permits to build on drainage easement in this area.

How close can you build to a drainage easement: San Francisco

The regulations in the San Francisco Bay Area are much clearer regarding this matter, so it is much easier to determine how close you can build to a drainage easement. As with the other states, you cannot build any improvements or buildings directly on the drainage easement, but you can always build something close to it.

The regulators recommend that you should keep a distance of 30 feet to 50 feet away from the drainage easement. They also recommend that you get a geotechnical engineer to help you with this so that you can get the most accurate measurements. 

How close can you build to a drainage easement: Florida

Florida follows pretty much the same rules as everywhere else, but there seems to be much more flexibility in play here. You can actually apply to build improvements on drainage easements. However, the improvements can easily be dismantled when necessary. The improvements should not also hinder the drainage easements in any way.

To secure the required permit, you must submit several documents to the local regulators, which include a signed copy of a lot survey, a copy of a recorded easement deed, a copy of the recorded warranty deed, and a lot more.

Key takeaways

Drainage easements are an important part of urban planning, as they help to drain water when it rains or when there are heavy storms. For this reason, you are not allowed to build anything on this section, as it can affect other people in the neighborhood. That said, if you keep a certain distance, which depends on the state, you can build improvements, as well as buildings, near such areas. 

Building near a drainage easement requires careful consideration of existing regulations, potential risks, and environmental impact. Make sure to consult with professionals and understand local zoning and building codes. Also, do not forget to secure the necessary permits. By following best practices and seeking professional guidance, property owners can minimize the potential negative impacts and ensure proper stormwater management.