What is my recourse if the retaining wall needs repairs but the owner withheld information that he owned it?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What is my recourse if the retaining wall needs repairs but the owner withheld information that he owned it?

My neighbor asked me when I plan to repair my retaining wall. I stated that I believed it was his. He provided me a copy of his survey map and said this should help me understand, however I cannot read it. I explained that I needed my own survey as I did not believe the wall was mine and its not. Can I take him to small claims to pay me back the money I spent getting a plot survey when he lied and knew the answer?

Asked on July 25, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Wisconsin


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, you cannot sue him for this:
1) He had not obligation to tell you who owned the wall; without a legal duty or obligation, there is no liabiltiy.
2) He did not cause you to spend the money on the survey--you chose to, when you could have simply decided to do nothing about the wall and spend no money, or look to the deed you would have received when you bought the property (and which is also on file with the county), look at the filed copy of his deed at the county clerk's office, etc. You chose to spend the money on a survey, and perhaps you had good reasons to do so, but your neighbor did not force or compel you to do so. There is no liability for your own voluntary choice or decision.
3) You are assuming he lied, but you don't actually know that he did--he could easily have believed honestly (even if mistakenly) that it was your wall, and a good faith, reasonable error would not support liability even ignoring factors 1) and 2) above.

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