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Old 09-06-2013, 03:11 PM   #16
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Retaining Wall Responsibility


They bought the property that way, end of that argument. Then they deliberately raised it, one could argue improperly, and essentially ruined what was on your side. You've had enough and want an end to their shenanigans with it. You no longer want to put up with what could be argued as a potential threat to your property value.

Now, how to get there from here. One would be to make sure any work going forward is properly engineered and permitted. Presumably it might be worth something to you to help this along, as in paying for some portion of it. I would not say half, as you get no benefit from the result of it being built, especially not since they wrecked how the old one had been fulfilling its purpose. I'd say it has to start with a properly engineered plan. And from that an estimate could be solicited. Then decide what amount of that you'd feel would be appropriate.

Otherwise your option is to raise a stink with the mess THEY made. This may lead to fines, and then they'd STILL need to go the plans/estimate route. Better for them to start playing the game properly while they can, not after they pay fines forcing them to do it.


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Old 09-06-2013, 06:06 PM   #17
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Actually, that's one thing I tried to sell them on; putting the entire wall on their land,. But, I don't think they were sold on that idea. One problem I've been dealing with is they are married couple that can't even agree with each other; never mind with me. Every time I think we are on the same page, they change their minds. It makes it very difficult to bargain in good faith. The main sticking point seems to be the previous owners of their property changed the grade and they want me to share in the cost of holding back that higher grade. How would anybody feel if you built a small retaining wall and your neighbor just built the land up higher and that put too much stress on your wall? You'd be pissed to say the least. It's the principle of it. I know that doesn't mean nothing in court but it's unsettling none the less.
Ayuh,.... In yer position, I think I'd just wait for it to collapse, 'n then tell 'em to get Their driveway outa yer yard,....

It's the principle of it.

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Old 09-07-2013, 05:33 AM   #18
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I just want to make one thing clear. They didn't raise the driveway. A previous owner did. From the pictures I've provided on this forum, is it obvious the trees were buried under fill? My whole argument hinges on that. One of my tenants is a state forester with a masters degree. I'm thinking of having him write a brief report and showing it to them. That would seem to carry more weight in this case than a civil engineer.

One of the problems in this case is that this is just the tip of the iceberg for them. They have severe retaining problems farther up the hill. Multiple large oak trees were allowed to grow too close to other retaining walls and many of the walls themselves are substandard and falling over. Their driveway is too steep; thus washing out on a regular basis and undermining a retaining wall. See Photos.

Plus, this driveway was originally installed so the original property owner could access land they don't even own. The state does. This is a total mess for them. The fact is they are really nice people and I like them a lot. But, the only people I might even consider falling on my sword for would be my own family and even some of them wouldn't deserve my martyrdom.

One of the perennial problems in my area is that lake properties were built and maintained as an after thought. They, commonly, did the least amount possible to these homes. My own property has been a maintenance nightmare. It's taken me the last two years to get shoddy maintenance under control and my budget has been stretched to the breaking point. A laundry list would include no rain gutters-had to replace many feet of rim joists and gutters, Wiring that was spliced inside the walls without junction boxes-had to rewire the whole house, lot graded towards the house-had to dig up the foundation and repair and waterproof foundation and regrade the lot. The difference between I and my neighbors is that I've done all the work myself and they have had to hire people. That's the whole point of DIY.
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Old 09-07-2013, 06:34 AM   #19
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You ( they) can go after the previous owner too.
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Old 09-07-2013, 07:15 AM   #20
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You ( they) can go after the previous owner too.
Based on what? I doubt there's much to be done on that front. Caveat Emptor.

Meanwhile, I'm curious about what you mean by the driveway providing access to state land. That and what the rest of the grade problems are.

The immediate problem is the wall, but might there be some other longer-term issues that could be solved more effectively? In ways that would help resolve your wall problem also?

The forester tenant could be helpful in this regard. If just to look at how the plants and trees are situated on the lot and what's going on with them.

I'm still inclined to think you need to find a real estate attorney with specific experience dealing with lots in that area and problems like that.
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Old 09-07-2013, 07:24 AM   #21
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does your property fall under "permit" jurisdiction ?

if it does, get them involved !!! they know what the codes are. and most likely they will be unbiased = a fair resolution to both parties (but that doesn't mean that both/either/or will be happy with it).

is this situation close to, or away from the house/garage ?
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Old 09-07-2013, 08:46 AM   #22
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I don't think polecat was being serious; especially since both of these properties were owned by the same man and he lost them in foreclosure. He's probably living in a cheap flat somewhere.
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Old 09-07-2013, 08:55 AM   #23
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Well, the state owns the back of our properties in the form of wetlands and surrounding woods. Pretty much all of our yards infringe on the state land in the form of yards, fences, extended driveways, and small sheds, etc. MY own fence in my back yard is half on state land. My neighbors home has a driveway, small shed and boat storage on state land. From what I've been told by long time residents, the state doesn't care as long as we don't build any permanent structures. But, your comment brings up a very good point. They are trying to prevent the hill from caving in to have access to an area they don't even own. In a way, anything they do will add absolutely little value to their property. No wonder they are balking at spending money.
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Old 09-07-2013, 09:19 AM   #24
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so. you don't want to answer my questions ?
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Old 09-07-2013, 09:49 AM   #25
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Well, the state owns the back of our properties in the form of wetlands and surrounding woods. Pretty much all of our yards infringe on the state land in the form of yards, fences, extended driveways, and small sheds, etc. MY own fence in my back yard is half on state land. My neighbors home has a driveway, small shed and boat storage on state land. From what I've been told by long time residents, the state doesn't care as long as we don't build any permanent structures. But, your comment brings up a very good point. They are trying to prevent the hill from caving in to have access to an area they don't even own. In a way, anything they do will add absolutely little value to their property. No wonder they are balking at spending money.

As far s the question about "permit jurisdiction" , towns here have building inspectors. I really don't want to go down that route unless absolutely necessary. Some towns around here enforce building codes to the letter and others take a laissez fair attitude to them. This town falls into latter. Let's put it this way. I am confident that I know more than a small town building inspector when it comes to retaining walls. Beside, they usually don't get too involved in disputes such as this. Being a lake community, this neighborhood is riddled with issues such as this. Most of these lake cottages were built in the 1950's as weekend getaways and summer residences. It's only been within the last 15-20 years that people turned them into full time homes. I doubt the town would want to open up a can of worms by cracking down on all these property issues. Then, all of a sudden, you've got people filing for property tax abatements because of perceived reduction in home values.
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Old 09-07-2013, 11:03 AM   #26
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The issue isn't ever about knowing "more" than the inspectors. The issue is knowing what the inspectors will or won't take issue with. When it's your work you want approved it's important to know what they will or won't notice. When it's someone else's screwups you absolutely want to know what they'll notice.

Framing a complaint in a way that helps your goal is assisted by knowing how the inspectors would approach it. As in, it's better to complain knowing their specific hot-button issues and heavily focus on those. Not just going in blind. Not saying you should take that step now. It's one of many possible bargaining chips to consider.

The state lands and wetlands issue is another hot button. Start screwing around with loosening soil and raising the possibility of increased runoff and the wetlands folks are likely to get their shorts in a bunch too. Depending on how you want the situation to play out this is a powerful card to play (or merely raise the spectre of it...) As in, if your neighbors aren't willing to fix it to your liking, are they willing to suffer the possibility of MUCH larger expenses of full environmental compliance costs?

As for town gov't 'cans or worms' that too can be exploited. As in, help me solve this problem now and simply. Otherwise it would appear there are others having similar problems and I'll just have to get their help in raising awareness... One lone guy asking for help is a lot less trouble than a mob of villagers with pitchforks...

These scenarios, again, are why having a knowledgeable attorney on your side, early in the game, is valuable. There are a lot of ways to lean on the various hot buttons. But how to safely play those cards definitely benefits from local counsel. Remember there are always jurisdictions above their heads (state & federal).

Do not overthink the larger issues, pay someone else to consider those. What you want is your problem solved to your satisfaction. The rest of the situations aren't your issue here and now. Sure, they may be important, for any number of reasons, but you don't want to lose yourself in worrying about them. At least not until your problem gets solved first.

Me, I'd wonder what it would really take to "solve" the whole grading situation on their property. In a way that would take it out of ever becoming your concern again. Just how much regrading would it take? Assuming it could just 'get done' without navigating the whole environmental and permitting process. Because presenting that in a cooperative "let's do it now before things get really complicated" kind of way might be a route to consider.
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Old 09-07-2013, 11:17 AM   #27
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I have to agree with Daniel H....we are not the ones to be asking on this....it certainly is an interesting situation and would like to see updates....but...don't take any advice from us....as you already found out from your lawyer...it's a vague area.....
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Old 09-07-2013, 04:35 PM   #28
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Ayuh,.... In yer position, I think I'd just wait for it to collapse, 'n then tell 'em to get Their driveway outa yer yard,....

It's the principle of it.

I'd agree with what Bondo said,wash your hands of it until it collapses in your driveway.
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Old 09-08-2013, 06:58 AM   #29
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I don't think polecat was being serious; especially since both of these properties were owned by the same man and he lost them in foreclosure. He's probably living in a cheap flat somewhere.
It can be done in the state of Indiana. If it was a foreclosure then the bank was the owner.
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Old 09-08-2013, 08:25 AM   #30
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when this caves in. will it be a real issue for you, as far as using your property goes ?
in other words, its caves in, 1. on your driveway. or 2. on your yard, that is away from the house/garage/sheds/whatever ?

1 = you gotta do something.
2 = forget about it.

its their issue. don't let them make it YOUR issue.

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