Water Restrictions, Yard Maintenance and Criminal Infractions?

This past winter we definitely did not see as much snowpack as we had hoped.  Given that, it is highly probable that Utah will experience drought conditions this summer.  In fact, Governor Cox has stated that about 90% of the State is experiencing extreme drought conditions.  When that happens water restrictions can go into effect by executive order.    This poses the question, even though it is your property can you be charged criminally for not complying with water restrictions?  The short answer is yes but depends on local ordinances.
Watering times amounts used and duration can all be restricted.  Be sure to check your local rules and regulations prior to turning on your water as different areas can have different restrictions.  For instance, in some areas, repeat offenses can lead to offenders losing their secondary water rights.  In May 2002, the City of Sandy put a water restriction of no sprinkler irrigation between the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. seven days a week.  The City of Sandy could charge offenders with a Class C misdemeanor, a fine of up to $750.00, and 90 days in jail.  Obviously, this is extreme, but please be mindful of restrictions as they most likely will go into place this year, and take effect earlier than normal.  During that same year, Eagle Mountain residents were asked to stagger watering every other day but there were no penalties in place for residents who offended this rule.
Likewise, infractions can also be charged to property owners who do not properly maintain their yard.  In North Salt Lake, for example, you can be charged with an infraction for allowing weeds to grow higher than six inches.  You can also be charged for failing to remove unsightly objects.  The reasoning behind this is due to the fact that uncontrolled weeds can be a fire hazard.  It may also be a nuisance to neighbors and can devalue not only your property but surrounding properties.
If your neighbor does not care for their property, can you take matters into your own hands?   Typically not.  For example, if your neighbor’s tree is growing over your property line, you can most likely trim the tree up to the property line, but not over it.  If your neighbor has a tree that blows needles or leaves all over your property are they responsible to clean it up?  The answer to this question is no per the Utah Supreme Court ruling of 1954 in Cannon v. Neuberger, 1 Utah 2d 396, 268 P.2d 425, (1954).
If you have questions regarding your legal rights pertaining to your yard, or perhaps you have been charged with an infraction, give one of our legal professionals a call to discuss the issues further.

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