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I have a property line dispute with a neighbor, what type of atty do I need? Located in north Spokane County, WA.

Spokane, WA |

Have had a survey done and recorded, shows he is trespassing/encroaching approx 15ft the 660ft length of the property line. Both parties purchased from same seller about 6 years ago. Need to find a reasonable cost atty for advice and resolution.

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Attorney answers 6


You need a real property attorney or general business attorney. The issue here is relatively simple. If your neighbor has been encroaching on your property by what is referred to as an "adverse" use, which has been "Open, hostile, and under claim of right" for a period in excess of 10 years, they may have the ability to claim either a prescriptive easement or obtain title to the portion of your property they have been using by "adverse possession."

A fence, built on your property would qualify for the 'open, hostile, and under claim of right" standard. So would a driveway, planting of shrubs, placing of a gate blocking your access, etc.

The easiest way to avoid a neighbor form ever acquiring such an easement or title by adverse possession is to grant a simple "license" in writing to your neighbor to use the property as they are. The license is a voluntary granting of use by you and thus prevents them from ever being able to claim that their use of your property was "hostile" since by implication, your granting a license is essentially giving them "permission."

Any decent real estate attorney or business attorney in Washington should be able to draft up this simple document.

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Herb Landis is on Wall Street north of downtown Spokane. What you need is an attorney who is at a reasonable distance from the courthouse. I have had a case with Herb, and I can recommend him for real property issues. He is local and well-regarded. I'm happy to recommend him.

Elizabeth Powell

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You need someone with experience in both real estate law and litigation. With a little luck, this can be worked out peacefully. In large part, that luck will depend on whether the encroachment is simply using property as a field, etc., or is something substantial and difficult to move like a building. When neighbors approach this type of problem reasonably, it doesn't have to cost a lot to resolve. When they approach it as war, well, war is expensive. Often far more expensive than the value of the initial slice of land being fought over.

Do not try to resolve this without a lawyer, because it will in all likelihood come back to haunt you years from now if it is not put to rest with finality.

I only practice in Washington State and may not practice in your area. This answer is a brief hopefully helpful tip to you which is correct to the best of my knowledge and is meant as a starting point for you to conduct further investigation. However, it is made without knowing the factual details of your case or doing any legal research and so may be in error as to either the facts or law. I am not your attorney and I am not giving a legal opinion by this answer.


I generally agree with the three others, but would add a few things.

First, the collection of attorneys who do a lot of residential real estate litigation is fairly small, and they tend to all know each other. I am not familiar with your area, but make sure that any attorney you retain has substantial experience with boundary dispute cases. In 20 years, I have probably had over 50 boundary cases that turned into lawsuits and many others that did not.

Although the law is not that complicated, it has a lot of twists and turns. For example, the fact that both of you purchased from the same seller may bring in the rule about the right of a vendor of adjacent parcels to establish the boundary in the sales of the parcels (location by common grantor). There are a lot of old rules that usually are not enforced any more, but you want someone who is familiar with them.

Second, you should know that the Legislature recently changed the law of adverse possession. If your neighbor asserts adverse possession of the 15 feet and wins, he or she would owe you reimbursement of taxes, and the court could award attorney fees.

Third, if the seller gave you a typical statutory warranty deed, then you would be entitled to tender any adverse possession claim to the seller. Deed warranties are an often overlooked element of boundary disputes, and this is another reason to make sure that your attorney has a depth of experience in residential real estate and boundary issues.

This is legal information and not legal advice. The final answer to your question will depend on more facts than you can include in your question and some that you probably would not think to include. Treat this as a starting point, not the answer.


You are wise to seek legal advise. Washington law governing boundary disputes can turn on both statutory laws and/or somewhat arcane common law doctrines such as for instance " boundary by acquiescence". A Washington statute provides a mechanism for resolution via judicial intervention providing both parties are in agreement. If the parties are not in agreement you may need to proceed with a suit to quiet title. It is possible that you can seek damages from your seller providing you comply with the applicable laws. In any case, property line variances discovered by subsequent survey often present more complex issues than iimmediately evident on the
surface. It is important to flush out all the facts. Wendy Earle, Law provides legal services to
clients in Newport, Washington as well as North Spokane at a reasonable cost.


In my opinion you need an attorney who has expereince in real estate law and specifically boundary disputes. Also, this attorney should have experience in the area of civil litigation. While it is possible a matter can be resolved without litigation, I think it is imperative any lawyer retained have the ability to litigate if necessary.