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How should renter handle property line dispute between owners?

Spokane, WA |

I rent a house which includes a yard. There is a dispute between the owner of my rental and a homeowner on an adjoining parcel regarding the property line. A fence runs the length of their parcel, which my landlord says is the approximate line between their yard and mine. The neighbors, however, claim their property extends several feet beyond their fence and into my rented yard, and have accused me of trespassing while clearly on my side of the fence. I'm told there's a survey but it's old. Do I need to be concerned about legal action from the neighbors? My landlord is spineless and won't take my part should things escalate. Meanwhile I have months remaining on my year lease and must deal with this in the interim. How do I best respond to accusations of trespassing?

Attorney Answers 2


The rent you are paying your landlord is for "quiet enjoyment". That is, you are paying so that no one can come and tell you that you are trespassing in the place you rent. Your landlord has a duty to take care of the property line issue.

What you should do is write your landlord, if you have not already done so, and let the landlord know about the property line dispute. While the landlord may in fact know about the dispute, you will still need to prove to the court that you follow statutory procedures and notify the landlord by written notice.

If the landlord will not do anything, there in fact may not be anything practical that you can do. While you may sue the landlord for breaching the agreement between you and the landlord, proving damages from not having a few square feet of yard may be difficult.

The written notice to the landlord is to help you to move out once you decide you do not want to live there anymore.

As long as you stay on your side of the fence, the local police likely is not going to do anything about allegations of trespassing. Without a court order regarding the property line, the local police likely would decline to decide where the property line is.

If you decide that you really want to live there, while you have no legal duty to get involved, perhaps you can suggest to the neighbor and the landlord that they, with or without you, go to mediation to work things out.

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Thank you for this excellent information. While we're on the subject, the same neighbors have dogs that menace me while I try to use my yard and their barking also disturbs me when I'm inside my house. They are always within the borders of their own yard when they do this. Does my landlord also have a duty to ensure my quiet enjoyment where this barking is concerned? Thanks again for your help.

Thuong-Tri Nguyen

Thuong-Tri Nguyen


In WA, quiet enjoyment does not refer to the lack of acoustic noise but to a challenge of your right to possession of the leased premises. Your landlord has no control over your neighbor's barking dogs. Unless your neighbor is also a tenant of your landlord, your landlord cannot do anything about the barking dog. If the dog is noisier than what is allowed under your city's or county's ordinance, you can report the dog to the animal control office.


Your landlord stands in line to work on the property line dispute.

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