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Retaining wall - neighbour's problem or mine?

Discussion in 'Landscaping' started by vtt, 25th Aug, 2015.

  1. vtt

    vtt Well-Known Member

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    Hi all,

    Our neighbour's back yard is set higher than ours and there is a low (about 50cm high) concrete retaining wall that is on the fence line between the two properties.

    The retaining wall has a pretty heavy lean at the top of the wall and leans towards our side. We had a pretty nasty storm recently and as a result our garden became flooded, partly contributed by the water running off the neighbour's concrete path on the other side of the fence into ours.

    We want to replace this wall with a more sturdy wall, but if we remove the current wall the concrete path on the other side of the fence in our neighbour's yard will likely collapse.

    Is this something that we are both responsible for or are we up for the whole cost ourselves?

    Thank you
    vtt
     
  2. vbplease

    vbplease Well-Known Member

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    Who is on the high or low side doesn't determine liability - it's based on who benefitted from the build of the wall from changing the original natural ground level.. If it's an old wall the chances are you probably don't know.

    Since it's built on the boundary you could be nice neighbours and share 50-50, or try out your insurance.. But your policy may exclude retaining walls or hard to prove its resulting from an extreme event (within 72hrs).
     
    bob shovel likes this.
  3. Scott No Mates

    Scott No Mates Well-Known Member

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    From previous experiences, it has been the lower property being responsible for the wall. Why? In most cases, the ground was a consistent) level prior to erection of fence. Someone, has excavated to make more usable land on one side of the fence and needed to retain the other side to prevent it falling/slumping.
     
  4. DaveM

    DaveM Adelaide Buyers Agent & KFC Strategist Business Member

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    That is my understanding too. I am about to embark on this as well, where my land is lower but is at natural ground level, rear neighbour has filled and levelled their yard. In theory they should pay for repairs but will probably go 50/50
     
  5. vtt

    vtt Well-Known Member

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    Hi all,

    Thanks for this info. It is anyone's guess as to whether the ground was 'dug out' on our side or 'filled in' on the neighbour's side. The properties are both terrace houses from the 1880s with a rear extension on each that is probably from about the early 1900s.

    If we approach our neighbour and she's not open to addressing the leaning retaining wall and it falls over (if it does, the fence would go with it and so would her concrete path) would we be up for the whole cost of repair?

    Just thinking would a site survey yield any answers regarding the natural ground level or would this be impossible to determine given the age of the properties?

    Thank you
    vtt
    :)
     
  6. vbplease

    vbplease Well-Known Member

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    I don't think there's any chance of tracking down a contour plan from the 1880's. A site survey will locate the retaining wall relative to your boundaries which could determine liability.

    If it were my property I'd offer to go 50-50 and if they get narky I'd undertake the site survey to confirm who should pay.. The site survey would be circa $800
     
  7. bob shovel

    bob shovel Well-Known Member

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    It's a pretty small wall and as you said there since the dawn of time and neither built it. And very unlikely of finding the original plans.
    50/50 would be best and fairest as it's pretty much a dividing fence. But for your sanity and security do the search with council just in case there are plans. Get info so your prepared for the worst.

    Is the footpath right against the wall? It may be possible to salvage, but if it needsreplacing you'll want to offload the costs, but they may not want it reinstated or something else. Get that priced up separately.

    My in laws are about to go through the solicitor, court room game over their wall. The quote to repair is up to 200k! So worth the legals if you can share the costs!
     
  8. vtt

    vtt Well-Known Member

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    Great thanks so much. @bob shovel the concrete path on my neighbour's side was built right up to the edge of the retaining wall, however there's now a gap of about 20cm as the wall has leaned away from the concrete path towards our property. When we had the recent big storm in Sydney the water was running straight from the neighbour's path right into our garden area and our kitchen and dining room flooded. The retaining wall height would normally be about 10cm higher than her path, but due to the lean (which I think has gotten worse since the storm) the water simply flowed into our property.

    I don't think the retaining wall was the sole contributor to the flooding as the volume of rain was out of the ordinary but it certainly contributed to it as it did not contain the water falling into my neighbour's path and direct to her drain. Instead it was like a waterfall from her path into our garden then subsequently our kitchen (water coming through under the door) and then our dining room. Our drains were working fine but could not cope with the enormous volume of water.

    I suspect the retaining wall was built around the 1950s as it is single brick rendered with concrete. The wall itself continues for about 8 metres but the only part that is really dodgy is about 2-3 meters near both of our houses.

    Thanks for the advice, I'll try council first and try talking to our neighbour.

    vtt
     
  9. Perp

    Perp Well-Known Member

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    I believe previous answers are based on the common law, whereas NSW modified the Dividing Fences Act 1991 in 2008 and redefined fences to include supporting retaining walls, so if the retaining wall supports the boundary fence, then the cost of the retaining wall is shared jointly, as it would be for fencing work.
     
  10. Scott No Mates

    Scott No Mates Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Perp a necessary and worthy amendment to the Act (unless I am liable for half of the RW).
     
  11. bob shovel

    bob shovel Well-Known Member

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    I don't think all cases would be so clear cut though, especially if one block is gaining, or erected the wall for their property works

    *edit - should read "not all cases are clear cut" i would not advise anyone to rely on the fences act. fences and retain walls are different beats especially once you get over a certain height where they become significantly structural
     
    Last edited: 27th Aug, 2015