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Chris The Lawyer
Chris The Lawyer, Lawyer
Category: New Zealand Law
Satisfied Customers: 22322
Experience:  37 years qualified as a lawyer; LLB, MMgt and FAMINZ.
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Our home was built in the 1950's in a coastal environment,

Customer Question

Hi there,
Our home was built in the 1950's in a coastal environment, so on a natural sand dune. We have not altered the natural ground level at all. However the neighbouring property was built in or around the early 2000's and in order to establish a building platform the natural ground level was cut along our shared boundary. A "retaining wall" was built by the then owners of the neighbouring property, but in actual fact it isn't an engineered retaining wall and is simply a few boards attempting to "retain" a significant volume of earth. There's a fence on top of the "retaining wall". The fence is leaning precariously, largely we think as a result of an inadequate retaining structure (cheap and nasty and enough to secure a sale). The other point to note is that the undermining of the fence only really began (or at least became discernible) following the neighbours extensively excavating their front yard about 5 years ago to put a pool in. Our neighbours are now asking us to pay for the retaining wall but I simply can't fathom why, when we've not altered the natural ground level (they have), and when they (or their predecessors) didn't retain properly it should suddenly become our responsibility. We're happy to split the cost of a new boundary fence but the sticking point is the retaining wall. The final point to note is that the "retaining structure" is not failing all along the boundary only for about 5 to 6 metres and any new retaining wall would likely be less than a metre high so probably wouldn't need to obtain a building consent. Thanks for your help.
Submitted: 5 months ago.
Category: New Zealand Law
Expert:  Chris The Lawyer replied 5 months ago.

The law about retaining walls is that you have the right not have your property eroded by their work on their section, and you have a right of support. So if they excavate and this causes the failure of the wall then they should put this right and pay for the wall. Fences are a shared cost, but the retaining wall is an issue where they have caused the problem, and therefore need to ensure your property does not slip on to theirs.

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