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I am located in Colorado, USA.

We own a house that has a rented home behind it. There is a retaining wall between the two properties. We have checked on the county assessor's website and the retaining wall is entirely on their side of the property line, and the neighboring property is lower and was excavated to be level, creating the need for the retaining wall. Based on all of that, it is my current understanding that it is the responsibility of the neighbor to maintain the retaining wall, which is over 30 years old, wood, and crumbling to the point that there are large sections of exposed dirt currently being held up by nothing.

The problem is, despite the tenant in the house telling us that about a year before we bought the property the landlord had an estimator out to look at it, and more recently she told us they said that they'd have another estimate done over a month ago, nothing has happened. I have had to brace the fence to keep it from falling over as the dirt around the fence posts erodes away. The property management company / owner are very unresponsive and do not seem very keen on repairs based on the visible condition of the property (rotting window frames) and the tenant telling us about other repairs she has requested not being done.

I had even contacted a few companies to see about doing the repairs myself but they declined as they could not get the permits as the work would not be on my property. I have set aside some money to cover probably the entire cost of the work, and definitely half, but as this is a rental and therefore the owner is profiting from it, I would only want to help pay for their maintenance as a last resort if they ask for it. There are other repairs to our own home we could use that money for as well as we bought this as a bit of a fixer upper.

What options do I have legally to get them to actually repair this retaining wall before it falls?

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The legal responsibilities of landlords, tenant-landlord laws and any laws dealing with structures such as retaining walls are all very local in nature; they will depend on the laws in your town/city and county in Colorado, as well as state law.

The best thing to do is call your local city or county building inspectors office and tell them that there is a retaining wall that is failing; they will inspect it and send letters to the property owner (and probably you) outlining the legal requirements and who is responsible for the required mitigations.

The rental property owner should not ignore a letter from the building inspector; there is too much legal liability. The inspector may also flag other problems with the rental property and will require they be fixed, or make referrals to other government agencies.

The tenant should also contact local legal aid and tenant organizations if they get push back or no response from the landlord.

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  • Giving you the green checkmark as no other answers have come in. I have already contacted the city building department, they have responded and told me that could try to get someone out. They also instructed me not to make repairs if the wall is not on my property, which is fine by me. While I am willing to pitch in if they ask, this has been a problem for years and has only gotten more expensive as they neglect it, and I really don't want to pay for their neglectfulness. – enkiduh May 29 at 15:48
  • I should also note that I am totally happy to take care of the fence myself once I have solid ground to build it on. But with this property management company I am afraid to even offer that until the wall is fixed. – enkiduh May 29 at 15:53

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