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Question DetailsAsked on 5/29/2018

Neighbors yard 2-3' higher has a railroad tie wall between dirt & my 6' fence. Dirt knocked over fence. Who pays?

Railroad tie wall about 2 ' high. They have 6' fence too. Just seems like dirt erodes in to wall space.

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1 Answer


If his retaining wall (or the dirt passing through the tie wall) is pushing your fence over (meaning his wall is pushing or leaning past the property line and pushing the 6' fence over, ASSUMING the 6' fence is totally on your property, his responsibility.

If fence and retaining wall is right on the property line, then it is likely (unless otherwise platted on the property drawings or easement paperwork) a joint responsibility and both parties share the fence repair cost equally - though the tie wall would be out of his pocket only assuming that is totally on his side (when upright).

If the dirt is pushing the fence over (as opposed to the railroad ties) then depends more on state law - if it is clear that the retained earth (so standing at more than natural angle of repose) is moving across the property line and pushing on your fence directly, his responsibility. But if the fence leaning over is due to slope movement of natural soil slope, NOT because of contact with fence by retaining structure, generally not his fault - considered act of nature in most all jurisdictions. This would apply only if natural slope - if a built-up, piled up, or steepened slope then his responsibility to keep it from moving down on your property UNLESS excavation or steeping has occurred on your property which is causing or promoting the movement. So - if a slope crossing the property line can be an argument - if raised ground on his side (like they widened the drive area or such to proiperty line up against railroad ties) and the ground on your side was basically level and not cut into the hillside, then totally his issue to repair.

Obviously, if you can show the retaining ties are out of alignment, bowed out or tilting over and pushing on the fence across the property line, that makes it clear it is his retaining structure failing to retain the slope which is causing the damage, and as long as the 6' fence is on your side of the property line, his responsibility to fix it (with your concurrence) or pay for the repair.

Note because this involves land movement, very unlikely his insurance will cover it, so this is likely to be out-of-pocket for him to get the retaining wall fixed and/or slope stabilized so it is not pushing over the line, and then get your fence fixed (which if not serious might just take a fencing company tilting poles back upright and retightening the mesh and stretcher wires). If significantly bent over so posts are buckling might mean now poles and rebuilding that section of fence.

Proving it may be a bit tougher - may take $125-250 for land surveyor (assuming this is a relatively urban/suburban property so property corners are easy to locate nearby) to locate the property line and determine if fence/ties are on or over it. And if slope general stability (as opposed to just soil filled in behind ties) is at question, possibly a civil/geotechnical engineer to assess the situation and give a professional judgement as to whether this is natural overall slope movement on both properties, or is related to only his side or to fill placed on his side which is unstable and moving laterally - another $150-250 typically for that.

Then you have the repair cost and getting neighbor to pay for his earth and retaining structure repair, and pay for your fence repair (which it is safer to have done yourself and he pay for, rather than turning his contractor loose on your property). Might take small claims court, with firm quote for the repair cost, to get a court order for him to repair his side and pay for your side - which you may or may not then be able to actually collect on if he does not come through with the money, so can end up with a lien or payroll attachment situation in some cases.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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