Who Pays to Repair a Retaining Wall

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Who Pays to Repair a Retaining Wall

There is a retaining wall on my property separating my lower land from my
neighbor’s higher land. He has claimed the wall existed since he moved there in
1997, and also claimed the owner before me built it. She purchased in 2005 and
sold to me in 2011.

The neighbor built a new home on his property in 2009-2010, including a new
driveway and landscaping, which abuts and even overgrows this wall. I found a
fuzzy photo dating from this period in which there is no wall visible. It seems
clear that his land was backfilled to this wall in 2009 or 2010, though I don’t
know that this photo alone will conclusively prove that.

The wall made of wood is failing. Although our conversations are cordial, he
clearly feels I am responsible for repairing or replacing the wall. We have both
had estimates and cost is 15,000-20,000.

I would prefer no wall but understand he has a right to support. If the wall is to
be replaced, I would prefer excavating a foot or two of my land and having it be
rebuilt on his land, so that he is responsible for his own support.

He stated he has too many other projects and won’t be able to address it for 4-5
years. I don’t think the wall will hold that long.

Who is responsible here for the maintenance/repair or replacement?

Asked on February 21, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Georgia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If the wall is one on person's land but not the other's, then it belongs to and is the responsibility of the person on whose land it sits.
If exactly on the boundary line, the upper property owner (your neighbor) is responsible for the upkeep of the wall--and the consequences of it failing. That is because it is *his* land which it is restraining; it is *his* land pressing up against it and being held back by it; it is *his* landscaping which is enabled by the wall (since without it, he could not have a flat or relatively flat plot to the wall, but would have to slope and taper his land down to your property--i.e. the wall gives him more usable square footage, so he gets the benefit); and it is the weight of *his* land which put strain on the wall. 
You can't force him to tackle maintenance or replacement of the wall, but you can hold him accountable if it fails and causes any damage to your property or costs to you (such as if debris spills onto your land and you have to hire someone to remove it).

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