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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2013

    Default Neighbor Put Fence Up 30 Years Ago, Not on Property Line

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: Washington in King county. I live on about a third of an acre with a 6 acre parcel running adjacent to and behind my property. The neighbor that owned it put up a wire fence about 30 years ago which was about 50 feet wide and 100 feet long inside his property line. I have been maintaining this area for 20 years and constructed a small deck for yoga practice in this area 10 years ago. The neighbor has died and the property is for sale. Do I have any claim to this property?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2013

    Default Re: Neighbor Put Fence Up 30 Years Ago, Not on Property Line

    You should find an attorney who is familiar with "adverse possession" and discuss your situation. It sounds as if you do have a claim on this property. Be sure to look at the costs.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Default Re: Neighbor Put Fence Up 30 Years Ago, Not on Property Line

    Easier to buy land than try and take it. As stated - check with someone who knows real estate law, as well as the realtor, or people selling the property. The domains related to adverse possession are specific, and each of them have to be met in a clear and convincing manner should it come to a court of law ($$$$).

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    El Dorado County, CA

    Default Re: Neighbor Put Fence Up 30 Years Ago, Not on Property Line

    If I recall correctly, WA has Color of Title as one of its AP elements, meaning that you have to have some basis in your title documentation to believe that the area in question was part of what you had written title to. If you knew all along that the fenced area was on the neighboring property, knew that the area had been fenced by the owner of the neighboring property, your deed clearly describes the boundaries of your property, and you knew or reasonably should have known that the fenced area was not within your described boundaries, then you don't have Color of title.

    If you don't meet all of WA's elements of AP, you may still be able to claim a Prescriptive Easement, which is a recognition of a use which has occurred for a period as long or longer than the statutory period for AP, and denial of that use would significantly impact your reasonable use/enjoyment of your property. I don't know if maintaining the area and having placed a small exercise deck would fit the bill, but it might.

    If either the previous owner or the current one ever acknowledged your use and gave you permission, then you would not have a basis for a claim of title by AP or for a Prescriptive Easement. Permissive Use does not allow the clock to run toward the statutory period for title purposes. By asking or accepting permission, the user, or occupier of the area in question acknowledges that the ownership lies with another, and by offering or giving permission, the other is asserting the validity of his or her title to the land and reserving the right to revoke permission at some future time.

    Adverse Possession is used in modern times primarily to clear up genuine conflicts of title and long-held mistakes of use and occupation contrary to written title. The courts rarely allow it to be used to simply add to one property at the expense of another if there had been no genuine confusion or controversy as to the location of the lines of written title. It would probably be best, and ultimately far less expensive (the legal costs of seeing legal action through can often be several times the actual value of the land) to propose to purchase the area if you want to own it.

    But as Dave and Ben have said, go see a local attorney who is familiar with boundary and title law. Some of the details which are not effectively shared in an internet forum may bring your attorney to a different conclusion.

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