Basic rules about landslips

Law FirmWynn Williams Lawyers
Subject MatterReal Estate and Construction, Real Estate
AuthorMr Richard Hargreaves
Published date07 March 2023

Landslips aren't a new phenomenon in New Zealand. But there have been catastrophic numbers of landslides in the past few weeks and they may become more common in the future.

Here are some basic legal rules concerning landslips:

  1. No one is necessarily liable for natural disasters. There is no automatic presumption that the owner of the upslope land is liable to the owner of the downslope land.
  2. If the upslope owner has caused/contributed to the slip though, they could be liable in negligence, or negligent escape ("Rylands v Fletcher" liability). Earthworks, drainage ditches, clogged stormwater drains, removal of trees/stabilising plants etc could all potentially have caused a slip.
  3. The surface run-off of rainwater after a landslip often leads to flooding downslope. Water flowing over slipped land often does so faster than pre-slip. Liability for downslope flooding follows the same rules as in points 1 and 2 above. There could be liability in the tort of nuisance if the problem is ongoing.
  4. There is no general duty for owners of upslope land to act for the benefit of downslope land. Especially when identifying a risk of future landslips. However, liability has arisen where a landowner knew of a hazard to its neighbours but did not act. When a...

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