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Property disputes: where to draw the line

Buying or renting a home in Seattle can come with countless advantages: fresh Pacific Northwest air, lively city life and the excitement of settling into a new pad. Unfortunately, it can also come with difficult neighbors. One topic that causes dispute is determining property boundaries. Many neighbors experience stress and even potential danger in property disputes, but there are various regulations that help protect citizens from escalating neighbor disagreements.

The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections defines property line disputes as disagreements between neighbors about the location of their property line and whether structures have been built on or over that line. Law enforcement handles such disputes through face-to-face contact, but the SDCI enforces a Land Use Code that contains rules about the space required between structures and the property line. The rules are as follows:

  • Limit fence height to to 6 feet in most cases; homeowners can build fences anywhere on their property
  • Do not build in side yard setbacks
  • Obtain permits for most structures (i.e. decks higher than 18 inches) 

As for settling preexisting disputes when living in rental homes, the Tenants Union of Washington points out that the Landlord-Tenant Act in Washington State does not directly address steps for tenants to take to resolve concerns that arise between neighbors. Instead, tenants must resolve their own issues with neighbors; tenants may choose to talk with the other party directly or discuss possible solutions with the landlord. Agreements in lease paperwork regarding property boundaries may also determine what types of steps the tenant can take to resolve the issue. Tenants also have the choices of attempting mediation with neighbors, documenting incidences of property disputes, filing an official complaint or, in extreme cases, contacting the police.    

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Riach Gese Jacobs, PLLC
7331 196th Street, SW
P.O. Box 1067
Lynnwood, WA 98046

Phone: 425-329-7857
Phone: 425-776-3191
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