Q: Can my neighbor claim adverse possession to 6 in of land inside my property line, but on the outside of a fence I built?
The fence has been standing for ten years in the state of Washington. The fence was put up by my family, so they did not actively seek to take the land from us. We want to move the fence over by 4 inches to accommodate the new home we built. They are claiming adverse possession. They have not legally declared the land theirs, so have paid no taxes for it or done anything to stake a claim prior to now. They have a lawyer ready, and we are unsure if we need one as well, or how we should pursue this. Are their claims justifiable?
A: The state law governing adverse possession is at RCW 7.38 (http://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=7.28&full=true). Generally, to make such a claim they must have been actually possessing the land in an open, notorious fashion, in good faith, under a claim of right for a period of 7 years, while paying taxes on it and making permanent improvements. If you start your fence move and they sue under a claim of adverse possession, you'll need an attorney who has a practice in real property law. Call your county bar association and ask for a referral to a local lawyer who practices real property law.
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