QLD Who is responsible for payment to replace a retaining wall

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LollieBee

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20 October 2017
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We have retaining walls on both sides of our property. Our house was built in the 70's and the neighbour's house in question was built in the 80's. The original retaining wall was built in the 70's and the land next door remained vacant until the current house was built in the 80's and the original retaining wall was added to height-wise and land was filled in on the neighbour's side (no cut on our side) to support the neighbour's new structure. The retaining wall is leaning over toward our house and moving. With the additional height, it is over 1m tall and will require a report from an engineer. My question is, who is responsible to pay for replacing the retaining wall under those circumstances?
 

Rod

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The person responsible for altering the contour of the land - the neighbour.
 
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Rob Legat - SBPL

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Rod's generally right, but there may be more to this one due to the 'two stage' construction and the amount of time involved. In most cases I'm aware of, a retaining wall of over 1 metre in height requires council approval (although back in the 80s, who knows...). You will need an engineer's report, and probably some form of building approval to get it rectified.

The relevant questions will likely become:
- Why is it failing? Eg: inadequate drainage, insufficient footing, general earth movement, age/materials used... I'm thinking it's probably going to be the latter given the amount of time.
- What effect did the addition have in respect of the above?

In Queensland there is requirement for support to be given to adjoining properties. You might find the fair outcome is for you to both share the cost of the rectification - you for the proportion to the natural contour of the land, and the neighbor for the portion relating to the fill.
 
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LollieBee

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20 October 2017
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Thank you for your responses. The retaining wall is made of concrete-filled besser block, both the original and add-on section.Rob, I'm unsure if you mean it is too early to fail given the passage of time or not?
 

Rob Legat - SBPL

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An engineer would be the one to answer that. My initial concern would be whether the footings were checked when the add on was done, to make sure they were still sufficient.
 

LollieBee

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20 October 2017
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Thank you Rob for your response. We are not the original owners of our property but the neighbours still are, so I don't know if the footings were checked at that stage. We have contacted the relevant council regarding approvals. They are getting back to us with who to contact for that as I was told the council itself "did not keep those records." So I'm not sure where else to look. Also contacted QBCC and they said they could not help at this point.

With the factors you mentioned as reasons for failure, there was drainage in place for the original wall but we cannot see evidence of that in the addition. We also have a retaining wall on the other side and there is no evidence of any issue with that wall. I'm wondering about a logical sequence for what steps to take now. So would the engineer's report be the most logical starting point and see what that concludes?
 

Rob Legat - SBPL

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I would think your first step would be to find a licensed builder who does retaining walls to have a look at it and at least shore it up so no more damage is done. Then get someone to give a report on what's happened, and what needs to be done to fix it.
 
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