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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/2192

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1982
HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT

his premise, although in so doing he may, even intentionally, intercept percolating water and thus dry up his neighbour's water supply or cause a subsidence of his house; the reason being that no legal right can be acquired to water flowing otherwise than in a denned channel. Or he may raise his house to such a height as to cause his neighbours' chimneys to smoke however long they may have been built; or he may erect a screen so as to block up his neighbour's windows, unless a prescriptive right to such light has been acquired.[1]

Moreover, the rule prohibiting any interference with the neighbour's rights is merely negative or restrictive in its application; for, in the absence of any agreement to do so, there is no obligation upon any one to make use of his premises in any particular way.[2] Thus, the occupier may allow weeds or thistles to accumulate on his premises, notwithstanding the injury that may be done to his neighbour's land.

It is, therefore, only in respect to some alteration in the natural condition of things, or, as it is commonly called, " the non-natural use " of his property, that an occupier may incur liability towards his neighbour. Similarly, the neighbour himself cannot, in the absence of some prescriptive right, complain of any interference unless it affects his property in its natural state. Thus, if A, in digging the foundations for a house, lets down his neighbour's field or garden, he will be responsible; but if there be on his neighbour's land a house which has been built within twenty years previously, A will not be responsible for its subsidence if he has, in fact, left such support as would have been sufficient to prevent any subsidence of the land in its natural condition.[3]

Instances of a nuisance to property. i. Importing or storing on premises something which would not in the ordinary course have been there.—As, for instance, the storage of water or the keeping of animals.[4] In such cases the rule is that if a person brings or keeps on his premises, for his own purposes,[5] anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, he must keep it at his peril, and is liable for any damage that is the natural consequence of its escape, unless he can show that its escape was due to his neighbour's fault, or was caused by vis major or act of God, that is to say, by some extraordinary occurrence which could not reasonably have been anticipated, or was due to the act of a third person over whom he had no control.

The same principle, it has been held, applies to a case where the occupier is under a duty to keep sewage, though received from elsewhere, from passing on to his neighbour's land, except through a certain channel, and that although he may be ignorant of the existence of the drain, he will nevertheless be liable for an escape of the sewage.

ii. Artificially raising the level of land adjoining the neigbour's wall or house, where the result is that the rain water soaks through the wall or into the house.

iii. Causing rain water to flow on to the neighbour's premises, either by putting up a shute which empties directly on to his premises, or by fixing down pipes from the roof which, owing to a want of proper connexion with a drain, eventually empty themselves into the neighbour's cellar.

Where the occupier of premises anticipates some extraordinary danger from an impending flood, he may take steps to avert it; but when the flood has, in fact, occurred, he has no right to minimize its consequences by trans-

  1. As to which, see p. 1988.
  2. Except in the case of a public nuisance, which he may be required to abate, even though it may be attributable to natural causes.
  3. If the house had been built for twenty years or more, A would be liable.
  4. The duty of a person who keeps animals is the subject of a separate article. See Animals.
  5. That is, not for the joint benefit of himself and the person injured, as, for instance, water in a cistern to supply the person injured as well as the other tenants of a house, see p. 1060.