Shared retaining wall with council problems

ghost3h
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Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by ghost3h »

So my garden has a high retaining old stone and mortar wall at the end of it. Behind it is a raised up garden of a council property, the soil level is about 3m above ground level of my garden, so there is a lot of weight against the wall. This wall is a boundary for several houses in the same situation.

It has previously been repaired in various gardens by the council over the years, and was extensively repaired in my property in 2004 where 2 buttresses where put up (before I owned the property). I have been told by the neighbours that the repair costs have always been footed by the council, but do not have any evidence of this.

About 2 years ago I stripped down my garden to landscape it, and found a huge crack in the wall, with it leaning into my garden, the wall is actually being held up by a tree in my garden. If I removed that tree, the wall would collapse the the council garden would spill into mine.I had a back and forth with the council on this, and after about 6 months, they agreed to repair this, at their cost (verbally - will cover this later). This was just before 1st lockdown, and then they put me on hold as it was non essential. I've been chasing it but not really getting anywhere, well because covid is a get out of jail free card for the council apparently.

Fast forward to now and I am selling the property, and I was honest with the buyer about the damage to the wall and that the council had agreed to repair it. Her solicitors wanted a statement from the council to confirm this, when I requested it I found the previous person I had been working with is now on "long term leave" and that its shared ownership and I will have to pay for half of the repairs. I obviously argued against this, and its currently being investigated by the manager of the department, as its handling has been a joke.

So my question is thus; I believe the wall is shared ownership however I would argue costs should not be shared because of 3 reasons:
1. The crack and lean is at the point where the wall has been repaired last time and clear from the mortar. It doesn't look like its been tied in properly and was confirmed by the structural engineer appointed by the council.
2. The reason for the damage is due to the council property garden raised up 3m above mine. The weight of this soil is constantly pushing against the wall, and I am sure the water and moisture doesn't help
3. The wall has historically been repaired by the council at their cost, including the insufficient repairs last time

If the council come back and stick to their guns about it being shared cost, do I have any way to fight this? Its not blocking by house sale, so its frustrating. I was previously told it was their cost, now with half costs it could be quite expensive. As I say, its a old stone and mortar wall, 3.5m high, lots of soil excavation etc. The buyer wont want to pay this, and its a bit impact on myself having to pay

Thanks
Kyle
MacadamB53
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Re: Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by MacadamB53 »

ghost3h wrote: Wed Jun 23, 2021 2:31 pm So my garden has a high retaining old stone and mortar wall at the end of it. Behind it is a raised up garden of a council property, the soil level is about 3m above ground level of my garden, so there is a lot of weight against the wall. This wall is a boundary for several houses in the same situation.

It has previously been repaired in various gardens by the council over the years, and was extensively repaired in my property in 2004 where 2 buttresses where put up (before I owned the property). I have been told by the neighbours that the repair costs have always been footed by the council, but do not have any evidence of this.

About 2 years ago I stripped down my garden to landscape it, and found a huge crack in the wall, with it leaning into my garden, the wall is actually being held up by a tree in my garden. If I removed that tree, the wall would collapse the the council garden would spill into mine.I had a back and forth with the council on this, and after about 6 months, they agreed to repair this, at their cost (verbally - will cover this later). This was just before 1st lockdown, and then they put me on hold as it was non essential. I've been chasing it but not really getting anywhere, well because covid is a get out of jail free card for the council apparently.

Fast forward to now and I am selling the property, and I was honest with the buyer about the damage to the wall and that the council had agreed to repair it. Her solicitors wanted a statement from the council to confirm this, when I requested it I found the previous person I had been working with is now on "long term leave" and that its shared ownership and I will have to pay for half of the repairs. I obviously argued against this, and its currently being investigated by the manager of the department, as its handling has been a joke.

So my question is thus; I believe the wall is shared ownership however I would argue costs should not be shared because of 3 reasons:
1. The crack and lean is at the point where the wall has been repaired last time and clear from the mortar. It doesn't look like its been tied in properly and was confirmed by the structural engineer appointed by the council.
2. The reason for the damage is due to the council property garden raised up 3m above mine. The weight of this soil is constantly pushing against the wall, and I am sure the water and moisture doesn't help
3. The wall has historically been repaired by the council at their cost, including the insufficient repairs last time

If the council come back and stick to their guns about it being shared cost, do I have any way to fight this? Its not blocking by house sale, so its frustrating. I was previously told it was their cost, now with half costs it could be quite expensive. As I say, its a old stone and mortar wall, 3.5m high, lots of soil excavation etc. The buyer wont want to pay this, and its a bit impact on myself having to pay

Thanks
Kyle
hi Kyle, a shared wall that needs repairing, and there is evidence both parties are partially liable, yet you are wanting only one party to pay?!?

in your shoes I’d focus on what matters - the move - and stop messing about trying to hold your neighbour 100% responsible for works carried out at the request of both parties (just because they paid for it doesn’t absolve your predecessor, as part-owner, of making sure the works were sound).

has anyone been in to assess whether the tree may be contributing, at least in part, to the situation?

kind regards, Mac
Collaborate
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Re: Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by Collaborate »

Why do they say ownership is shared?
arborlad
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Re: Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by arborlad »

ghost3h wrote: Wed Jun 23, 2021 2:31 pm I believe the wall is shared ownership...............



Why? How old are the respective properties, do you know whose land has been raised or lowered?
arborlad

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ghost3h
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Re: Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by ghost3h »

MacadamB53 wrote: Wed Jun 23, 2021 3:17 pm hi Kyle, a shared wall that needs repairing, and there is evidence both parties are partially liable, yet you are wanting only one party to pay?!?

in your shoes I’d focus on what matters - the move - and stop messing about trying to hold your neighbour 100% responsible for works carried out at the request of both parties (just because they paid for it doesn’t absolve your predecessor, as part-owner, of making sure the works were sound).

has anyone been in to assess whether the tree may be contributing, at least in part, to the situation?

kind regards, Mac
It's not a neighbour, it's the council. I cant focus on the move, if this is blocking that? It's going to cost thousands to repair and was insufficiently repaired by the council in 2004, it's cracked and leaning at that point of repair. They previously agreed to pay full repair costs, now because of Covid they are reneging on that (budget cuts etc). I have the plans from the previous repair, they removed the stonework in contact with tree roots and packed it with Polystyrene in 3 locations
arborlad wrote: Wed Jun 23, 2021 4:05 pm Why? How old are the respective properties, do you know whose land has been raised or lowered?
Mine was build in 1930's, I've been told the wall was up way before this and was a wall around a coal building. Unsure on age of council property or how the height discrepancy came about

I'm sure when I checked my deeds where ambiguous at best, but have been advised the council legal time say its shared ownership. I can recheck my deeds though
arborlad
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Re: Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by arborlad »

ghost3h wrote: Wed Jun 23, 2021 2:31 pmThis wall is a boundary for several houses in the same situation.


There is a rule of thumb that where you have one long boundary feature that bounds lots of smaller properties, it is in the ownership of the larger property.
arborlad

smile...it confuses people
ukmicky
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Re: Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by ukmicky »

If the wall is a shared wall the party wall act will come to your rescue.

Firstly if it’s a shared wall you and the council are both responsible for the wall and it’s repair or rebuild.

You however even if you own an equal share of the wall are not responsible for the retention of their land ..

They are legally obliged to prevent their land from collapsing onto your and will be causing an actionable nuisance if it does.

That’s not the end of the story though.


If I were you I would firstly ask for evidence that’s it’s a shared wall or at least get them to put it in writing that they are saying it’s a shared wall because you can use that later.

So if moving on from there you still really need the wall repaired threaten to serve them a party wall notice. Don’t worry there is method in my madness.

The reason you serve or threaten to serve a party-wall notice under the party wall act on them is because the costs of rebuilding the wall are determined by who benefits the most from the wall as well as the cause of the failure.

So as it’s holding up their land there is a very good argument they gain at least 95 % of the benefit from the wall so should pay 95 % of the costs which would include surveyors fees but also as the failure is most likely due to their land pushing against it their liability increases further and you could easily argue 99 or more of the cost should be borne by them.


You can’t lose and would win in your battle so I would to explain the above to them and how they would most likely have to pay a large proportion of your surveyors fees as well as the cost of rebuilding the wall once it was over so it would be cheaper for them simply to rebuild the wall now or you will force it upon them using the party wall act. Give them 14 days to respond .
Any information provided is not legal advice and you are advised to gain a professional opinion
arborlad
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Re: Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by arborlad »

ghost3h wrote: Wed Jun 23, 2021 4:24 pm
Mine was build in 1930's, I've been told the wall was up way before this and was a wall around a 'coal building.' Unsure on age of council property or how the height discrepancy came about



Is there any of the 'coal building' still there, does the material of the wall match with it?
arborlad

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ghost3h
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Re: Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by ghost3h »

arborlad wrote: Thu Jun 24, 2021 11:43 am Is there any of the 'coal building' still there, does the material of the wall match with it?
No, no idea when it was removed either. This was just something I heard from the elderly couple next door.

@ukmicky - Does the party wall act effect walls at the end of the garden?

I've attached some photos to give people an idea. The wall is similar height to the neighbours garden I'm just standing on a load of branches. It continues on to the left for 3 more gardens and to the right for 4 more gardens

Image
Image
ukmicky
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Re: Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by ukmicky »

@ukmicky - Does the party wall act effect walls at the end of the garden?
Only if its a shared party wall.

In the end however it doesn't really matter whether its a party wall or not because they legally have to prevent their land collapsing onto yours and will end up paying for the cost of the repair if its a party wall or a wall 100 percent in their ownership .
Any information provided is not legal advice and you are advised to gain a professional opinion
ghost3h
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Re: Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by ghost3h »

So I have a email back from the council with their official response. Its quite a long email, but will post the important bits.
Legal Services have confirmed that after checking their records, there are no deeds that show who is responsible for the boundary wall and on that basis it should be considered a shared responsibility between the owner of <myAddress> and The Council.
I can confirm that initial investigations into the condition of the wall were undertaken by <Council Person>, Building Surveyor with the assistance of a Chartered Structural Engineer, Brian. The Structural Report from Brian outlines that the trees in the garden of <myAddress> will have had an effect on the wall causing sub-soil settlement and rotation to the wall to the extent that the wall is in contact with one of the trees. He does also highlight that there is vegetation on the higher side of the wall that would be applying pressure to the rear of the wall. I am assuming that this relates to the garden of <councilAddress>. I have attached a copy of the report for your information
I take on board you point regarding the wall retaining the garden of <councilAddress> and it is for this reason I agree that the council should carry out the repairs necessary to maintain its integrity on this occasion. However, the fact that the trees within the garden of <myAddress> have contributed to the condition of the wall along with the lack of any documentation to confirm who is responsible for the wall, still leads me to conclude that there is a shared responsibility here and both parties should contribute towards the repair costs.
So they seem to be hinging it all on one small line of the structural report, which is:
The trees will have had an effect on the wall causing sub-soil settlement and rotation to the wall. To the extent that the wall is in contact with one of the trees which is now supporting the wall. There is also vegetation on the higher side of the wall that will be applying pressure to the back of the wall.
I spoke with the structural engineer yesterday, who was saying something about the tree taking moisture from the ground on one side or something. I dont fully understand how this works or how it has an effect on the damage to the wall. On its previous repair in 2004 the roots where packed with polystyrene under the wall, which will stop them growing out.

But the damage and lean to the wall is exactly where it was repaired last time, and doesn't even start until over 1 metre up from ground level in my garden. The bottom of the wall is the only part that look intact, and that's just the bit I can see. I imagine the actual foundations are below ground level on my side, and the roots around or below this.

I pointed this out to the engineer and he hummed and hawd a bit and said "well I've issued my report now". Which to be fair to him, was over a year ago and he cant have know the council would pin everything on 1 line of the report.

Not really sure what my next steps are here. I asked if we could progress with the repair to get quotes in for the work etc whilst I assess my options. He said thast fine, and it would be a contribution, not 50%. But until they come in I wont know if its worth fighting or just paying it to progress the house. Brian did say he though it would be like £10k at least, probably more.

Any advice is greatly appreciated. Would the party wall 'route' be a good option here?

Thanks
MacadamB53
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Re: Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by MacadamB53 »

ghost3h wrote: Fri Jul 09, 2021 9:16 am So I have a email back from the council with their official response. Its quite a long email, but will post the important bits.
Legal Services have confirmed that after checking their records, there are no deeds that show who is responsible for the boundary wall and on that basis it should be considered a shared responsibility between the owner of <myAddress> and The Council.
I can confirm that initial investigations into the condition of the wall were undertaken by <Council Person>, Building Surveyor with the assistance of a Chartered Structural Engineer, Brian. The Structural Report from Brian outlines that the trees in the garden of <myAddress> will have had an effect on the wall causing sub-soil settlement and rotation to the wall to the extent that the wall is in contact with one of the trees. He does also highlight that there is vegetation on the higher side of the wall that would be applying pressure to the rear of the wall. I am assuming that this relates to the garden of <councilAddress>. I have attached a copy of the report for your information
I take on board you point regarding the wall retaining the garden of <councilAddress> and it is for this reason I agree that the council should carry out the repairs necessary to maintain its integrity on this occasion. However, the fact that the trees within the garden of <myAddress> have contributed to the condition of the wall along with the lack of any documentation to confirm who is responsible for the wall, still leads me to conclude that there is a shared responsibility here and both parties should contribute towards the repair costs.
So they seem to be hinging it all on one small line of the structural report, which is:
The trees will have had an effect on the wall causing sub-soil settlement and rotation to the wall. To the extent that the wall is in contact with one of the trees which is now supporting the wall. There is also vegetation on the higher side of the wall that will be applying pressure to the back of the wall.
I spoke with the structural engineer yesterday, who was saying something about the tree taking moisture from the ground on one side or something. I dont fully understand how this works or how it has an effect on the damage to the wall. On its previous repair in 2004 the roots where packed with polystyrene under the wall, which will stop them growing out.

But the damage and lean to the wall is exactly where it was repaired last time, and doesn't even start until over 1 metre up from ground level in my garden. The bottom of the wall is the only part that look intact, and that's just the bit I can see. I imagine the actual foundations are below ground level on my side, and the roots around or below this.

I pointed this out to the engineer and he hummed and hawd a bit and said "well I've issued my report now". Which to be fair to him, was over a year ago and he cant have know the council would pin everything on 1 line of the report.

Not really sure what my next steps are here. I asked if we could progress with the repair to get quotes in for the work etc whilst I assess my options. He said thast fine, and it would be a contribution, not 50%. But until they come in I wont know if its worth fighting or just paying it to progress the house. Brian did say he though it would be like £10k at least, probably more.

Any advice is greatly appreciated. Would the party wall 'route' be a good option here?

Thanks
”good” as in “get me out of contributing towards sorting a problem I’m partially responsible for”? yes, it’s a very good option :wink:
ghost3h
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Re: Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by ghost3h »

MacadamB53 wrote: Fri Jul 09, 2021 11:20 am good” as in “get me out of contributing towards sorting a problem I’m partially responsible for”? yes, it’s a very good option :wink:
From the opinion of the council?
MacadamB53
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Re: Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by MacadamB53 »

ghost3h wrote: Fri Jul 09, 2021 12:57 pm
MacadamB53 wrote: Fri Jul 09, 2021 11:20 amgood” as in “get me out of contributing towards sorting a problem I’m partially responsible for”? yes, it’s a very good option :wink:
From the opinion of the council?
eh?!?
ukmicky
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Re: Shared retaining wall with council problems

Post by ukmicky »

Mac. ..

Why do you believe is the OP is partially responsible.




The structural engineer has not provided them with any evidence that the failure has got anything to do with the tree . All he has done is highlighted a possible factor (the tree )that may or may have not contributed towards it s failure . ..


To the OP .


How thick is the wall,brick wise .

Do you know what the foundations of the wall are like . They should be very substantial for a retaining wall of that size


Did he dig a pit and look at the foundations
Any information provided is not legal advice and you are advised to gain a professional opinion
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