A married couple purchased a single-storey brick residence in Castle Cove; some years later, they noticed some cracking in the wall of part of the house, with this cracking being close to an immature Sydney Blue Gum tree on the adjoining property. Later, as the tree grew, so too the cracks in the wall of the house. In addition, movements were observed in other parts of the house, together with damage to drainage and other services.
As a consequence, the married couple suspected that it was the growth of the gum tree, and the associated tree root penetrating under the footing to the house, was the cause. They then engaged a structural engineer, and an arborist, to provide them advice in relation to the cracking and other damage. The engineer subsequently provided a report stating that the cause of the damage was the root from the gum tree.
Later, and because the adjoining property owner was not prepared to remove the tree, litigation was instituted by the married couple in the Land & Environment Court. As a consequence:
1. The adjoining property owner engaged a senior structural & geotechnical engineer as their expert, who together with a different arborist, asserted that the tree could not possibly be the cause of the damage.
2. The adjoining owner’s expert was able to convince the Court that the damage was not caused by the tree or the associated root.
Subsequently, and because the cracking in the brick wall continued to increase, the married couple engaged SCE to advise on the matter. In summary, the SCE advice was:
a) The engineer engaged by the married couple for the court case did not have the requisite experience, knowledge or background necessary for a Land & Environment Court hearing.
b) There were major, and obvious flaws in the expert report by the senior structural & geotechnical engineer engaged by the neighbour.
c) The cause of the damage was the growth in the large tree root from the Sydney Blue Gum tree close to the boundary.
Following this advice SCE has undertaken several additional site inspections during which the tree root has visibly grown, cracked the house’s footing system and caused other additional damage.
The matter is however still unresolved as there are major legal hurdles, and the married couple do not have the funds to pursue any further litigation.
Since the initial matter in the courts, the tree has been removed after a risk assessment report was carried out by SCE on the risk the tree posed to life and property on the adjoining property and the proposed development. As part of this report, it was recommended that the tree be removed under engineering supervision and allowance for the stabilisation of the house footings be made. This was not carried out. As a consequence, there is now further cracking and settlement to the house of the married couple.