Adverse Possession

Helping with Adverse Possession Disputes in Washington

Generally, in order to become the owner of a piece of land, you must either buy the property or become the recipient of a gift of the property. However, there is a legal doctrine under which an individual may lay claim to a piece of land simply by using that land in a certain manner for a certain period of time. This doctrine is called “adverse possession” and can arise in a number of different types of cases. If you have a legal dispute that involves adverse possession, you should contact an experienced real estate attorney at the Dickson Frohlich as soon as possible.

Examples of adverse possession

A common example of adverse possession occurs when a landowner builds a structure—such as a garage or a fence—that is partially on the neighboring owner’s property. Technically, the landowner who built the structure is trespassing on the other’s property. Such trespassing does not have to be intentional; sometimes the owner may rely on an erroneous description of the property on a deed and it may be an honest mistake. However, such encroachment may result in the trespasser actually gaining ownership to the area of land in question.

Requirements for adverse possession in Washington

The requirements for a trespasser to gain legal ownership of a parcel of land through adverse possession vary from state to state. In the state of Washington, the law requires the following for adverse possession to be possible:

  • Possession of the land must be actual (meaning physical possession)
  • Possession must be open and notorious (meaning onlookers could obviously see the possession)
  • Possession must be hostile (without permission of the rightful landowner)
  • Possession must be continuous for 7 years if the trespasser has been paying taxes on the land, or for ten years if no taxes were paid.

As you can imagine, adverse possession claims can cause substantial disputes between neighbors when the trespass is discovered. Often, the original landowner may have issues obtaining title insurance while trying to sell the property. In such situations, these claims often end up in court.

Contact an experienced real estate lawyer in Seattle or Tacoma today.

At the Dickson Frohlich, our attorneys understand how to help resolve complex real estate disputes involving adverse possession claims and other issues.

Please do not hesitate to call our office for help at (206) 621-1110 or (253) 572-1000 to discuss a potential case.

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    Attorney Thomas L. Dickson

    Thomas L. Dickson

    Tom is an experienced litigator and the founding partner of the Dickson Frohlich. For over 30 years, he’s helped clients prevail in their real estate, construction, and business law matters.

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