Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

Neighbors Who Share a Fence and Retaining Wall

The retaining wall that holds up my backyard fence has eroded and in the latest rains has pulled away from my yard. It is leaning back and will eventually fall down the hill beind me into the neighboring yard. This could happen within weeks or it may take years. Insurance checked it out and won't cover it because it didn't actually fall. A reputable fencing company gave me a bid for the repair work. My neighbor, who was cooperative at first, now refuses to pay their half because insurance won't cover it. They said they want to wait for it to fall or may re-consider it in a year or more. My yard has an opened trench (8 inches wide in some areas) left by the retaining wall pulling away, so I want it repaired immediately before erosion to my yard begins. Are my neighbors legally bound by some code to pay for their half of the retaining wall & fence even if it hasn't fallen down? If so, what legal right do I have to make them pay in a timely manner before further damage to my property occurs?

Asked on 1/21/06, 6:23 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys


Re: Neighbors Who Share a Fence and Retaining Wall

More facts are necessary to provide a full and complete response to your question. If there is a written agreement between you and your neighbor, it may affect the rights and obligations of both of you. Moreover, if the wall is entirely on your neighbor's property, statutory obligations of your neighbor related to what is known as lateral support may be implicated. If the neighbor has engaged in conduct which has contributed to the damage, his obligations are different than if he is innocent in this regard. Finally, if the fence is a "division fence" (defined by statute), then both coterminous owners are mutually bound to maintain the fence between them.

This is a complicated question, to which the answer is greatly affected by relevant facts. You should seek out the advice of a competent real property attorney familiar with issues relative to land use and neighbor disputes. Good luck.

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Answered on 1/22/06, 8:59 am

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