Who Is Responsible For Retaining Wall Repair and Maintenance?


Typically, retaining walls situated along the downhill boundaries of properties are often obligated to provide lateral support to uphill property owners (See Diagnose). Find out the best info about Neighbor’s Retaining Wall.

Liability depends on many factors, including property lines, slope, grading, drainage, and utilities; easements and covenants may also have an effect. Read on to discover more!

The Property Line

Retaining walls serve many functions, from creating sloped yards to protecting landscaping, often creating barriers between two homes or properties. But when problems arise – like collapsing walls or the soil washing away behind them – determining who is responsible can be challenging; here are a few factors that will help establish responsibility.

First and foremost, it is necessary to establish where the retaining wall lies on your property line. A surveyor can assist with this step but also considers the original slope of the land as well as who graded it.

If the retaining wall is on your neighbors’ property, they are ultimately responsible for its installation and should cover any associated costs. They will likely need your permission before building it and should be willing to negotiate an affordable price. In addition, any easements or covenants on their land should outline this matter clearly.

In contrast, if the retaining wall on your property was built by your downhill neighbor to level their yard, its maintenance falls squarely within their purview as they were responsible for creating its need by altering its natural slope.

However, in such instances, one must consider the property’s history before making a final decision.

As well as looking at visual clues such as lines cut in the sidewalk in front of your home, identifying which lines correspond with your property line can also help. If unsure where your property line lies, reach out to your local municipality, and they’ll tell you where the boundary starts and stops and provide an official plat map for the neighborhood.

The Slope

When retaining walls are problematic, their cause is usually linked to land slope changes. Whoever altered this state – for instance, graders or excavators – usually bears responsibility; so, if a neighbor uphill backfilled his property and this led to needing a retaining wall to separate properties, then that individual may be held liable to make good on any damages that have resulted from such actions.

Reasons why retaining walls fail can vary; erosion washing away soil behind it compromises its stability, while wear-and-tear can wear it out over time. No matter the cause, any issues must be dealt with promptly and professionally to avoid disputes that lead to legal disputes over defects, drainage permits, damages, or removal issues.

At times, private homes may construct retaining walls within the municipal right of way (ROW). This typically happens when their property abuts streets, sidewalks, or alleyways; when this occurs, cities are the uphill neighbors due to either their grading or excavating projects affecting natural slopes in this area – potentially creating an obligation of lateral support to adjoining property owners.

This area of law can be tricky because its application depends on many variables that exist at any particular moment in time, including the history of land ownership, soil type, and slope before any grading or excavation work is performed.

If you have questions regarding whether the city is responsible for your retaining wall, consult a civil engineer or land surveyor to establish what might be at fault. Also, remember that sharing costs can save both parties headaches, money, and stress; click here to read more about the costs of retaining walls with neighbors.

The Grading

Sometimes, retaining walls are built between properties or across property lines, and responsibility is shared equally between uphill and downhill property owners for the wall’s cost and repair or maintenance according to its benefit.

For instance, if one neighbor backfilled their yard and caused the soil to slide downhill into another neighbor’s property, they have an obligation of lateral support towards that person (or any owner of the land). While this seems straightforward at first glance, homeowners and city excavators often struggle with understanding this concept when discussing liability for retaining walls.

Similar logic applies when considering a retaining wall on public right-of-ways such as sidewalks or alleys. When adjacent to such public rights-of-ways, such as sidewalks or paths, public owners (usually municipalities) owe a lateral support duty to any private property owners uphill from it who weren’t responsible for municipal grading that necessitated its construction. Though less prevalent than residential walls separating individual properties from one another, such retaining walls do occur frequently and have implications when it comes to liability issues and liability implications for all involved parties involved.

In most states, if the uphill property owner agrees to have their neighbor build a retaining wall on the property line, both parties are generally responsible for covering and maintaining its cost. Such arrangements can often be found within easements or covenants during sales.

Litigating retaining wall disputes rarely goes to court; however, legal issues can still arise over defects, drainage issues, permits, and damage to retaining walls. Litigation can involve expensive legal fees; therefore, working with an impartial third party, such as an arbitrator, may be wiser to find a compromise before conflicts escalate further. It would also be worthwhile exploring innovative alternatives to traditional retaining walls, such as tiered rocks or planters, which might prevent disputes altogether in the future; these inexpensive options might even serve as more permanent solutions than traditional retaining walls do.

The Drainage

Your family has lived in your home for some time now, and you have noticed a retaining wall nearby that has started showing signs of wear and tear – worrying you it might collapse any moment now. Therefore, you are exploring all possible repair solutions, so it only happens after now.

When inspecting an existing retaining wall, you must consider who constructed it in its initial stage. Most often, this will be the downhill property owner as their land has usually been graded accordingly, necessitating such walls. If you need help determining who was responsible, check your CC&AMP or historical records for evidence of excavation and backfilling work that might have led to its necessity.

You must also assess whether the retaining wall you plan to build falls under any easements or encumbrances on its Certificate of Title. If this is the case, approval from those liable must be sought from them before starting construction work. If they are still determining their status, it’s often best to contact them and request to see their plan and obtain all pertinent paperwork.

Although there may be many reasons why retaining walls need repair, erosion is typically to blame. Decay happens when water washes away soil behind the wall and weakens it over time due to storms or old age.

Typically, homeowners who benefit from having a retaining wall between two homes are each responsible for half the costs to keep it maintained. After all, both have an interest in keeping it in good condition! Occasionally, an uphill owner who backfilled their land may be held responsible for creating the need for a retaining wall; for more information, see Diagnose or check historical records for definitive permits. Retaining walls are usually an excellent investment for property owners; however, they require regular upkeep to remain in optimal condition. Therefore, you must understand who is responsible for any retaining walls near your home so you can plan for their needs.

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