Aberdeen, WA asked in Real Estate Law and Land Use & Zoning for Washington

Q: Who's responsible to survey property before building fences. Contractor or home owner?

My neighbor had a contractor build a fence on our property line and says it's not his fault if it's on my property. Says he did not need to survey because the contractor is licensed and bonded and can't break the law. I hired a surveyor and proved the fence is on my property and now I want him to pay for the surveyor. Under which washington state laws can I sue him?

1 Lawyer Answer
Brent Bowden
Brent Bowden
  • Real Estate Law Lawyer
  • Lynnwood, WA
  • Licensed in Washington

A: The property owner is ultimately liable for their fence and where it was placed. They may have a claim against the contractor if the contractor was supposed to verify the boundary, but I have never seen a fence contractor take responsibility for the survey or location.

There are a lot of other factors that make a simple answer difficult though. A survey is not the final answer on where the boundary is. If the new fence replaced an old fence in the same location, for example, there is likely a question of adverse possession. Likewise, there is sometimes the possibility of getting costs and attorney's fees, but you probably would not want to file a lawsuit merely to recover half of the cost of a surveyor. I would suggest a consult with a qualified attorney who can get an idea of the fuller picture and give you options.

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