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Crossing the line: who wins in a property dispute?

| Nov 1, 2017 | Neighbor Disputes |

Home is where the peace and quiet is — that is the motto for most Seattle dwellers, at least. Yet when a neighbor takes on another unruly pet or frequently hosts band practice at midnight, tensions can inevitably run high. When those tensions involve more complex issues, including disputes over property lines, the routes to solutions can appear all the more challenging.

In the case of one Seattle devisee, a neighbor boundary dispute has turned into a nightmare. Komo News reveals the unfortunate situation that unfolded when the devisee discussed property lines with neighbors of her late mother, who had previously agreed to maintain part of the corner duplex lot. Deborah Atkinson’s late mother had made an agreement for these neighbors to upkeep the small section of the property, with full acknowledgement that the property belonged to the elderly woman. However, when Atkinson’s mother died, the neighbors began making landscape changes on the other side of a dividing fence and expanded their driveway. In addition to the preexisting tension, Atkinson discovered that the neighbors had hired an attorney to help them claim the property — asserting that the adverse possession law allows a homeowner to claim a neighbor’s property if they have maintained that property for ten or more years. 

Although Atkinson’s situation may appear bleak, the laws surrounding adverse possession are less straightforward than previously mentioned. Findlaw clarifies that, in the state of Washington, adverse possession laws (also known as “squatter’s rights”) hold that any individual who inhabits an otherwise neglected piece of property — and improves that property — may be eligible for a title of the real estate. However, contrary to what Atkinson’s neighbors argued, individuals seeking titles of property must have also paid property taxes and complete a seven year period of occupation. This clarification seems to solve one neighbor’s questions, but state laws are continuously changing to best meet homeowners’ needs.