10ft highway retaining wall

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Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2022 3:55 pm

10ft highway retaining wall

Post by Hexlass »

Hi! Looking for some advice…

We purchased a house in 2019 with a ten foot highway retaining wall in the front garden. This spans several houses with ours at the end of the terrace having the greatest wall height. Last year, a builder advised it might need some maintenance work and was not built correctly (no weep holes etc) and I started to wonder about responsibility - a lot of info I read suggested highways retaining walls can be the responsibility of the local authority.

After a lengthy exchange with the council, they confirmed that the wall, gates and steps down into the gardens were built several decades after the houses to support a road widening project. The rural district council owned the property at the time. Offices advised that conveyance documents for our neighbours’ properties state that when the rural district council sold the properties to the city council in 1974, the ownership and therefore maintenance of the front boundary wall was transferred to the purchaser of the property.
According to council officers, the conveyance document for our property is ‘unclear’ as the inverted T mark missing on that boundary is not marked on the conveyance plan. They state that the T marks can only assign boundary liability for those boundaries that will be shared with any retained land owned by the Seller after sale. The City Council did not own the land fronting that boundary in 1976 when the property was sold, and it was not the highway authority either, therefore the whole wall passed automatically on sale under the transfer deed to the purchaser at the time.
Officers therefore concluded following legal advice that the retaining wall to our property is in our ownership and therefore as the owner we are responsible for maintaining the wall.

In addition, if the wall collapsed, not only would we be liable to rebuild it, but also the road above it.

My queries are:

1 - is it worth me pursuing this further? I’ve been given no documents to prove the above and our deeds make no mention of the wall, there are no ownership marks on the boundaries. Most information I’ve read suggests that the land benefitting (the highway) would be responsible for maintenance - in particular here as the wall was built (apparently poorly) by the local authority. Heavy lorries use the road every day and it seems unfair we would have to repair the road if heavy use and poor construction causes it to fail.

2 - is it reasonable that this should have been highlighted to us by our conveyancer during the house purchase? It wasn’t investigated by our solicitor at all. We paid for the top level house survey which mentioned under ‘issues for our legal advisor’ that boundary responsibility should be clarified as the retaining wall may be a costly liability. Despite this and the fact that there was a photo of the wall in the survey, our conveyancing firm is claiming that the wall wasn’t apparent to them from the estate agent photos. I feel completely let down by our conveyancer as we are now left with a liability potentially in the hundreds of thousands. It seems unlikely our home insurance would cover us as there is some distance from the wall to the house. I’ve requested our case file from our conveyancer and they are just ignoring me!

Grateful for any views from the forum :)
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Re: 10ft highway retaining wall

Post by ukmicky »

Yes it’s totally worth you pursuing it .

Firstly ownership of wall. As they own the surface down to however far they need to go in order to support the highway and as their predecessors built this wall to support the highway , the land the wall is on could be highway as there is
nothing that says highway land can’t be at different levels.

Secondly if this wall was your wall, highways will have a right of support but that doesn’t mean you have to pay for that support to be maintained . Rights of support for highways are no different than normal rights of support. They are governed by easement laws and under easement law you do not have to pay toward maintaining the dominant tenants support. The law gives them the right to maintain the wall because of it.

If they have taken legal advice they need to change solicitors and I would simply say sorry this wall is in need of repair and under easement law I’m not responsible for maintaining your support,so repair it or your highway will at sometime end up in my garden .

Any repair would need to sit within the same area of land ,so the can’t make the base wider if it means using more of your land. (The same goes for the other properties )

It’s possible if they took you to court the court would order you to pay some money towards its repair if it was your wall as you receive some benefits from the wall, but as they receive they main benefits they would need to pay the lions share.
Any information provided is not legal advice and you are advised to gain a professional opinion
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