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Himanshu Dua and Renu Anand bought a section in the Gladstone Heights subdivision and built their house there, but problems with a watercourse retaining wall at the property could cost them between $30,000 and $100,000 to fix, or a fine of up to $200,000 if they do not.
The couple said, either way, they did not have the money.
They put off having a baby because of how stressful the situation had become.
Mr Dua said he had had sleepless nights and was prescribed sleeping pills by his doctor.
"We really don’t know what to do,’’ she said.
They had no idea there was a problem until a landscape gardener pointed out the wooden retaining wall near the house was bending.
A structural engineer has since concluded the wall is substandard, the poles have less than 30% of the strength required by the building code and the work was substantially different from what was consented.
The Dunedin City Council has said the situation is a civil matter between the landowner and the developer.
The developer was Gladstone Heights Ltd, owned by members of the Logan family. Representative Rennie Logan said it was a matter for the landowner and the city council.
Mr Logan pointed out the developer obtained a code compliance certificate from the council for the culvert there.
A council spokesman said the retaining wall was constructed without a building consent and was "therefore not signed off by the Dunedin City Council’’.
The council clarified that the wall was built after a code compliance certificate had been issued for the culvert.
Mr Logan said the landowner created a problem by raising the site behind the "landscape wall’’ when building the house, turning it into a retaining wall.
In a letter last year, the council rejected the notion of a landscaping wall and said the wall required a building consent.
The couple said they were reluctant to cast blame around, but struggled to see how they were at fault.
Mr Dua met Mrs Anand in 2004. They married in 2013 and Mrs Anand moved from India to be with her husband.
They had been renting in Waverley, Dunedin, when they saw the Irwin Logan Dr section in September 2018 and decided to buy it.
They arranged for GJ Gardner Homes to build their house and moved in during October 2019.
Despite their ordeal, Mrs Anand said she loved living in Mosgiel.
The wall was built by the developer at some point between June 6, 2018, and December 11, 2018, the council concluded.
However, the council spokesman said yesterday once Mr Dua and Mrs Anand acquired the property, "the new owners also took on the responsibility for the wall’’.
Structural engineering consultant Hanlon and Partners said the council was required to inspect the infrastructure by late August in 2019, but there was no record of it having done so.
The watercourse could not carry the flow of water the approved design had allowed for, the firm said.
Mr Dua said a timber wall was inconsistent with what had been consented.
Asked if he had a message for the couple, Mr Logan said the landowner should have sorted out landscaping and fencing requirements before building.