Property Line Dispute Lawyer
With a combined 100 years of experience in all types of real estate law, the property line dispute lawyers at Dickson Frohlich have seen it all. Over the years, in fact, Dickson Frohlich has become a thought leader in real estate law (especially property and boundary line disputes). Because of this hard-fought experience, they truly understand the intricacies of real estate law and know how to use them to benefit your claim.
As property ownership changes hands over time, the physical boundaries that owners observe to separate properties can shift. In fact, it is not entirely uncommon for a long-time property owner to obtain a survey of his or her property and discover that his deed’s legal description does not match how the property has been used over the years. Physical changes made to the land combined with successive changes of property ownership can make it challenging to determine where accurate property lines are by looking at the property alone.
It is this discrepancy that can lead to property boundary line disputes between neighbors. While it may seem counterintuitive, there are legal doctrines that can shift ownership of a property from one person to another based solely on property use. This ownership change can occur, regardless of whether the person obtaining ownership rights to the property intended to do so.
In boundary dispute situations, there are often two sides to the story, and the situation may need to be settled by a court. If you are involved in a property line dispute, it is imperative that you enlist the help of an experienced real estate law firm, capable of representing your interests.
We offer a free consultation to discuss your property boundary line dispute situation and show you how our real estate attorneys can help. Call now for a free case evaluation at 206-429-6931.
Property Boundary Line Dispute Lawyers Handle Your Property Line Issues
Property boundary line disputes can be a disruptive and aggravating challenge for both business and residential property owners. Our boundary line dispute attorneys frequently deal with the following types of legal issues:
• Determining legal boundaries, versus what has been routinely used and observed
• Evaluating the legal impacts of structures (such as fences) or trees and vegetation that encroach over a neighboring property’s boundary
• Changing legal property descriptions to match current use
• Evaluating your rights in connection with a trespasses, such as your neighbor’s using your property without your permission
• Analyzing construction activities that may affect the stability of your land or interfere with an established property use, such as by blocking your driveway
• Evaluating property improvements that cross a property line or violate laws, covenants, permitting or zoning requirements.
Steps to Take with Property Boundary Line Disputes
Though uncommon, sometimes neighboring property owners can agree on changes to legal descriptions to match the actually observed boundaries. In other cases, neighbors may not be so amicable. In trying to resolve your property boundary line disputes, we suggest that prospective clients consider the following steps:
- Clearly identify the specific boundary problem and consider how you would like it resolved. For example, in cases where your neighbor puts up a fence — would you like the fence moved or do you prefer restitution (payment) if it encroaches on your property?
- Discuss the problem first, if possible, with your neighbor. In so doing, be prepared to present legal documents such as title documents (title reports, etc.), property surveys, plat maps, and deeds to show your neighbor. Before turning to the courts, it is best to ascertain whether the problem was a simple misunderstand and, thus, solvable without further escalation. Often, we find that when neighboring property owners are dedicated to solving the boundary line dispute amicably, they can coordinate their efforts as well (such as by jointly hiring a surveyor for a report).
- See whether title insurance can help. While the standard title insurance policy contains an exclusion for boundary line disputes, it may help to notify your title insurer of the dispute. In some cases, it might agree to provide legal representation.
- Consult an attorney. Some disagreements regarding boundary lines are too deep for neighbor-to-neighbor negotiations. Typically, the party who may be losing property by virtue of the observed boundary line simply cannot accept the legal realities of his or her situation. In those instances, you likely need to consult an attorney. The property boundary dispute attorneys at Dickson Frohlich have several options to address this situation. We can:
- Seek an injunction preventing your neighbor from continuing to use the property
- Seek monetary compensation for damage to your property or its decreased value
- Negotiate a compromise
- Force changes through legal means.
How Are Property Line Disputes Settled?
There are a few ways to settle property boundary disputes in Washington through legal means. These include:
A Lawsuit. When parties simply cannot agree to where a given boundary line should be, their only recourse is to seek a judgment from a court. This takes place, of course, through the litigation process. By far, the most common cause of action for such a situation is adverse possession. Adverse possession is the legal doctrine that can be asserted if you’ve possessed another person’s property openly, continuously, exclusively, actually, and without permission for a period of at least 10 years (seven years, under “color of title”). If the requirements for adverse possession are met, then a court may rule that the section of disputed property has legally shifted ownership to the adversely-possessing party.
RCW 58 Agreement
Sometimes property owners recognize that the boundary line has shifted, and want to avoid litigation to change the recorded legal descriptions to match the actual use of the property on the ground. To do this, the Washington State legislature passed RCR 58.04.007. This statute allows property owners to essentially change a shared boundary line by having a surveyor assist in providing new legal descriptions to match the actually-observed boundaries, and then executing a written agreement regarding the change in the properties, and then recording that document with the county:
“If all of the affected landowners agree to a description and marking of a point or line determining a boundary, they shall document the agreement in a written instrument, using appropriate legal descriptions and including a survey map, filed in accordance with chapter 58.09 RCW. The written instrument shall be signed and acknowledged by each party in the manner required for a conveyance of real property. The agreement is binding upon the parties, their successors, assigns, heirs and devisees and runs with the land. The agreement shall be recorded with the real estate records in the county or counties in which the affected parcels of real estate or any portion of them is located;”
Boundary Line Adjustment
The last option to change a boundary line is through the boundary line adjustment process with the county where the property is located. Each county has its own system of how it administers proposed boundary line adjustments. Property seeking to change a boundary line must contact their county’s local planning department and discuss how to go about fulfilling the various administrative requirements for a boundary line adjustment. Commonly these types of boundary line changes are done between properties are owned by the same individual (as an RCW 58 agreement would be far preferably otherwise). This is due to the fact that an RCW 58 agreement avoids the county’s sometimes-difficult to follow administrative procedures.
An experienced real estate attorney can help you determine the best way to proceed legally in a property line dispute based on your individual situation.
Call Our Boundary Line Dispute Attorneys for Help
At Dickson Frohlich, we know the laws and the legal system. We will use our decades of experience to protect the physical integrity of your property in any boundary line dispute. Whether you would like to change your legal property description to match current use or prevent an adjoining property owner from unlawfully encroaching on your property, we are here to defend your rights.
Call Dickson Frohlich today for your free consultation at 206-429-6931.
I highly recommend Dickson Frohlich and if I ever need a lawyer again they will be my first call.
- Jeremy H.
I can’t even tell you how much I appreciate this firm! These guys helped me through one of the most challenging legal situations I’ve faced in my life. Their skill and expertise literally saved my business. I’ve dealt with other counsel in the past but the Dickson firm was by far the most competent and tactful counsel I’ve ever received. I would recommend this group to anyone!
- Keith D.
It’s a pleasure to work with the guys at Dickson Frohlich. One of the first things that stood out to me was how down to earth and friendly everyone at the firm is. I would definitely recommend them.