Do I Have to Pay for Damage Done to My Property by My Neighbor’s Wall Falling Down?

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“I have a question about who is responsible for property damage due to a neighbor’s retaining wall that fell down on their property, and caused my fence to partially collapse, as well as creating a 3 foot wide by 2 foot deep ditch that runs along my side of my fence. Her retaining wall was not built correctly to start with, and was already up when she bought the house 12 years ago. Actually it was up when I moved in about 18 years ago. The previous owner’s father in-law put it up, and it is on their property, not mine. Now she wants me to share the cost of repairing her wall and wants permission to allow a contractor to come on my property because they can’t get to it through hers, and to grade about 4 feet of my yard by the fence so she can change the her wall to a 3 foot wall instead of the 5 foot wall she had. Plus she told me that they will have to remove some of the my plants and take down what’s left of my fence and that it will be my responsibility to replace the fence and any plants. And she wants me to sign a contract allowing them on my property. What are my rights and responsibilities in regard to this situation? Is she responsible for repairing my property?”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

Talk to a lawyer. The failure of the retaining wall may not be your neighbor’s fault, but it certainly isn’t yours. While it would certainly be neighborly (not to mention practical) to allow access over your property to make an appropriate repair, sticking you with the bill seems unfair.

You certainly may want to compromise a little in the interests of good relations with your neighbors, but knowing what your rights are lets you know how much you’re compromising. There may be overriding rules in your state (or city, or county, etc.), but my guess is that your neighbor is primarily responsible for the cost of the repairs.

Note that if it’s expensive enough, your neighbor might want to submit a claim to her homeowner’s insurance. This would take some of the sting out, though at the cost of having a claim on her record.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.

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