Building Retaining Walls on Property Boundaries
With the permission of both property owners, a retaining wall can be built on property lines. But it’s worth noting that the two parties still have responsibility for any of their actions that destabilises the wall’s structural integrity.
So, if for some reason the neighbour digs next to the wall and causes it to fall over or collapse, the responsibility is on them to restore it and bring it back to normal.
These days, if there’s a problem that two adjacent landowners often run into, then it’s likely related to the retaining walls on property boundaries.
Many people don’t know about the responsibilities surrounding this type of wall. Do adjoining neighbours share equally in the responsibility for maintaining it? Who pays for the wall if it needs to be rebuilt? Does a neighbour have the right to insist that it be repaired?
This article will explain the things you need to know before erecting a retaining wall or when you’re worried about the one standing next to your neighbour’s garden.
A Retaining Wall Explained
A retaining wall is a rigid wall designed to provide support to the soil so that it doesn’t move downhill. Several materials can be used to create it, including brick, masonry, timber and others.
Since a retaining wall has to support the soil in all conditions, whether dry or wet, it needs to be well-installed with proper drainage and be able to withstand any lateral pressures. If poorly built, a retaining wall is at risk of cracking or even collapsing altogether.
One of the legal rules regarding a retaining wall is that: _if it has a height above a metre, then its installation must be supervised by a licensed structural engineer_.
Both Neighbours Are Responsible for Maintaining Retaining Walls
Building retaining wall systems on property lines requires mutual consent. The two neighbours are deemed to have an equal responsibility toward the wall, and the one who undermines it is the one who must repair or replace it.
Retaining Walls Near Property Boundaries
When installed near property lines, retaining walls can cause a variety of issues because they may only benefit one landowner. When it comes to erecting a retaining wall, the law takes into consideration multiple factors such as the wall’s location, impact on the surrounding environment and the hazards that it potentially creates.
Most of the time, building a retaining wall involves excavation of the land. If this work or the wall itself causes encroachment or damage to the neighbouring property, the one who commissioned the work can be held responsible for the negative impact. The liable party must repair or remove their retaining wall, and bear all related costs as well as compensation for damage inflicted to the adjacent property.
It’s possible that during the excavation, a boundary line fence is undermined, thus requiring the party who carried out the work to pay for the repairs.
In the worst-case scenario, such a project that is poorly undertaken can lead to subsidence on a neighbouring land, which causes the neighbouring home to suffer structural instability and damage. Sometimes these kinds of adverse impacts can still occur even though the work is done well inside the organiser’s property lines. In this case, the party who commissioned the work can be held liable for the damage.
Things to Take Into Account Before Building a Retaining Wall
Erecting a retaining wall is a job that needs to be done very carefully. Consider how high the wall you want to install. If it’s going to be higher than 600mm or require significant excavation work, call your local council first to see if you need to get development consent.
Make sure that you only hire licensed, professional retaining wall builders that are properly insured for damage that occurs during the building phase or following the completion. Check the contractor’s license status to see if it’s current. If it has been expired, then their licence may have been revoked.
Retaining Wall Requirements in Western Australia
The requirements for installing a retaining wall are a little more complicated in Western Australia. Although the key is always the same, namely talking to your neighbour before starting any construction. As a rule of thumb, if you’re altering the land’s shape then you’ll be responsible for any costs incurred.