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So my neighbor's wall collapsed into my backyard....and now they want me to fix it!

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I moved into my home 5 years ago. At the time I purchased the property, my neighbor had already erected a concrete wall along the property boundary that separates our backyards. The neighbor who built the wall sold his home approximately 1 year ago to my new (and current) neighbors.
We live near the top of the hill, and my home is located on the side of the hill, while my neighbor's home is located upgradient of mine; my current neighbor's land is approximately 5' higher in elevation. Prior to the wall's construction, a 5' tall natural berm (dirt "wall") was all that separated my yard from my neighbor's yard. There is a great deal of vegetation that has grown on the wall making it difficult to see the surface of the concrete wall, thereby making it difficult to assess the condition of the concrete wall.
Three weeks ago, the concrete wall that was constructed by my former neighbor collapsed during a thunderstorm, and the debris landed in my yard. As it turns out, the wall was constructed without a permit, is not built to code, and is total disaster. During the thunderstorm, and shortly after the wall collapse, my neighbors came to my front door to notify me that a large portion of "their wall" had collapsed into my backyard- I was unaware that the wall had collapsed until they told me. We made plans to assess the damage the following day due to the ongoing thunderstorm.
The following day rolls around and my neighbors were in my backyard at 0900. They helped me bust down the remaining loose concrete blocks from the portion of the wall that collapsed. A very large portion of the wall remains intact and is upright. My neighbors told me that they would contact someone to come look at the wall to determine what their course of action would be (tear-down vs repair) and I have the texts to prove their intentions. After having the wall assessed by an engineer, my neighbors told me the wall is located on my property. The top edge of the 5' tall "dirt wall" that separates our yards is apparently mine. They dont want anything to do with the wall following the inspection and have asked me to find a solution to the problem.

I pulled the survey map of my property boundaries that was issued to me during the purchase of the home. According to the survey map, approximately 1.5" of the width of the wall was laid on my property, while the remaining 8.5" of the width of the wall rests on their property. There was no need to verify that the wall was not on my property prior to its collapse since it is located at the top of the 5' dirt berm, which is ground level for my neighbors- the wall in question is also constructed in a way so that it connects with their front yard fence, and is not connected to any other feature on my property. Now that I am aware that a small portion of the wall rests on my property, I would like for the wall to be reconstructed (to code) or removed off of my property since it is unstable and another collapse would result in severe damage to my home.

I would like to know:
- What are my options for having the wall torn down; the remaining wall is unstable (according to the engineer) and if it were to collapse it would fall on to my home resulting in catastrophic damage to my living and dining rooms.
- Am I financially responsible for the removal of the wall if the wall was built on my property without lawful permission?
- Considering that the vast majority of the depth of the wall is actually located on their property, is it even possible to remove a wall that is not wholly located on my property?
- Do I have legal ground to request my neighbors to remove the wall altogether at their expense?
- Also my neighborhood has bylaws that specify how far away a fence must be constructed from existing property lines (im confirming the distance now). Does this matter since the wall already exists?

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much in advance.
 


adjusterjack

Senior Member
What are my options for having the wall torn down; the remaining wall is unstable (according to the engineer) and if it were to collapse it would fall on to my home resulting in catastrophic damage to my living and dining rooms.
Options?

Either take it down or don't take it down.

Am I financially responsible for the removal of the wall if the wall was built on my property without lawful permission?
Let me explain the difference between responsible and accountable. If you want to protect your house you are responsible for taking down the wall and rebuilding it properly. Self preservation is nobody's business but your own.
Whether you can hold your neighbor accountable for part of the cost is possible but up to a court to decide if he says no.

Do I have legal ground to request my neighbors to remove the wall altogether at their expense?
Sure. You can "request" anything you want. And he can say no. Then you decide if you want to sue.

Also my neighborhood has bylaws that specify how far away a fence must be constructed from existing property lines (im confirming the distance now). Does this matter since the wall already exists?
That's a question best asked of your homeowners association in conjunction with reading your CC&Rs and bylaws.
 
Options?

Either take it down or don't take it down.



Let me explain the difference between responsible and accountable. If you want to protect your house you are responsible for taking down the wall and rebuilding it properly. Self preservation is nobody's business but your own.
Whether you can hold your neighbor accountable for part of the cost is possible but up to a court to decide if he says no.



Sure. You can "request" anything you want. And he can say no. Then you decide if you want to sue.



That's a question best asked of your homeowners association in conjunction with reading your CC&Rs and bylaws.
@
 
@adjusterjack

Thank you. I guess a better question would have been:

Since the vast majority of the wall rests on my neighbor’s property, I will need to access their property to knock it down (due to the height differential of 5’ of our properties). Standing in my yard, the top of the wall is nearly 15’ tall, and is located 11’ 11” away from the side of my home. Since the wall is unstable, it needs to come down before it collapses on to my home. They refuse to knock it down. What is the best course of action.
 
Last edited:

xylene

Senior Member
You need to get a fresh survey, a lawyer, and your own engineer.

This has turned into an adversarial situation. The report of the neighbor's engineer is not binding on you.

You may also wish to involve your homeowners insurance, but consult a lawyer first.
 
You need to get a fresh survey, a lawyer, and your own engineer.

This has turned into an adversarial situation. The report of the neighbor's engineer is not binding on you.

You may also wish to involve your homeowners insurance, but consult a lawyer first.
Thank you for the reply. I have a surveyor and civil engineer assessing the wall today. Interestingly enough, my neighbors have refused to provide me with the documentation provided to them by the engineer they used to asses the wall.
I plan on consulting with a lawyer as well. My concern is that we have had some nasty weather recently and I am concerned the wall is going to collapse...
By taking action to protect my home, am I accepting liability for all of the associated costs of tearing down the wall?
 
@adjusterjack

Thank you, I appreciate your time.
Also, just wanted to add that following some recent heavy rainfall, the neighbors had the audacity to rig up a drainage pipe through the collapsed portion of the wall from their side of the fence so that water would pour out into my yard....
I am having a hard time understanding this rationale especially since their own contractors told them the wall is unstable. Why would you saturate the ground underneath a substandard wall that has already collapsed. They are taking advantage of the fact that I am out of town... my significant other sent me a picture and I am absolutely beside myself... there has to be some law about intentionally draining water into a neighbors yard. Unbelievable.
 

not2cleverRed

Obvious Observer
Also, just wanted to add that following some recent heavy rainfall, the neighbors had the audacity to rig up a drainage pipe through the collapsed portion of the wall from their side of the fence so that water would pour out into my yard....
I am having a hard time understanding this rationale especially since their own contractors told them the wall is unstable. Why would you saturate the ground underneath a substandard wall that has already collapsed. They are taking advantage of the fact that I am out of town... my significant other sent me a picture and I am absolutely beside myself... there has to be some law about intentionally draining water into a neighbors yard. Unbelievable.
There usually is. Contact code enforcement.
 

quincy

Senior Member
Also, just wanted to add that following some recent heavy rainfall, the neighbors had the audacity to rig up a drainage pipe through the collapsed portion of the wall from their side of the fence so that water would pour out into my yard....
I am having a hard time understanding this rationale especially since their own contractors told them the wall is unstable. Why would you saturate the ground underneath a substandard wall that has already collapsed. They are taking advantage of the fact that I am out of town... my significant other sent me a picture and I am absolutely beside myself... there has to be some law about intentionally draining water into a neighbors yard. Unbelievable.
When property has been damaged by rain water that purposely has been diverted from its natural flow onto this property, the owner of the damaged property can sue the one who has diverted the natural flow.
 

xylene

Senior Member
As the lower parcel, how exact did a 15 foot wall get built even partially on your land so close to your home?

Maybe you want a realtor too.
 

justalayman

Senior Member
If you haven’t done so, take a lot of pictures.


As to what to do: start with a written letter notifying the neighbor that their wall is a current threat to your property and you request they abate the issue immediately due to the dangerous (i suggest using the specific word dangerous. It imparts a much more serious condition than any other) condition of the wall



That sets up the neighbors to not be able to argue “but we didn’t know”. Their knowledge is very important if this gets into a suit for your damages. And you being able to prove they were aware of the issue is more important. All the talking you’ve done can be denied. A written letter, not so much.


As to the neighbor asking what you’re going to do about the issue:

A snide remark might be: make sure you remedy the dangerous condition your wall exposes me to

But that isn’t recommended.

A bit of turn about here is good. If it is possible and it would benefit correcting the threat, something like:

Well, if it would help I will allow the contractor access to this side of the wall.


Of course, proper licensing and insurance and promises of indemnification by the neighbors would be necessary before you actually allow the access.

The neighbors illegal wall is an encroachment onto your property. That doesn’t make it your responsibility. It means you get to demand they remove the trespass. Given the issue there is no valid claim it is a common wall or shared wallmsimce it is not a legal construct.

And if they decide to construct a new wall, make sure it is clearly on their side of the property line. Allowing it to be within your properly lines sets up a future argument that it is a shared wall and you are liable to share in the costs of maintenance. Without such an agreement you most likely aren’t but things are forgotten and if the evidence shows it to be a common wall determined simply by its placement, you might find yourself paying to maintain a wall.
 
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