Resolving Adverse Possession Disputes In Washington State
Adverse Possession is a legal doctrine which allows a possessor of land, who does not own record title to that land, to become its legal owner over a period of time. Here is a more detailed description of Adverse Possession: https://beresfordlaw.com/adverse-possession-in-washington-state/
Adverse Possession lawsuits can be time-consuming, risky, stressful, and costly for both neighbors. Oftentimes, the true owner in an urban or suburban setting does not care much about using the sliver of land occupied by the adverse possessor. Indeed, the owner is often unaware of the neighbor’s encroachment until someone commissions a survey. Rather, that true owner often cares about losing any portion of fee-simple ownership primarily because of the potential negative impact on future development. For example, if the true owner’s lot shrinks even a little, he or she might not be able to get a permit to remodel in the future, or subdivide the lot, or build an accessory dwelling unit. This is because such loss of land ownership might create land use problems, such as setback issues (https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Setback), or problems with maximum lot coverage (https://www.lawinsider.com/dictionary/lot-coverage).
So what should you do if the you are the true owner, you do not care much about using the land, but you do not want to risk hindering future development? The solution is often a carefully-drafted Settlement Agreement waiving Adverse Possession but granting an Exclusive Easement. An Exclusive Easement is a document you record in favor of the adverse possessor which gives the adverse possessor the right to use the disputed sliver, while keeping the property lines intact. Here is a more detailed description of Exclusive Easements from lawyer Andrew McKenzie of our firm: https://beresfordlaw.com/exclusive-easements-in-washington/
In conjunction with a Settlement Agreement and an Exclusive Easement, you may want money to change hands in some cases, and not in others. Regardless, an Exclusive Easement is often the best tool in the lawyer’s toolbox for resolving Adverse Possession disputes. At Beresford Booth, we have seasoned real estate litigators who have handled Adverse Possession litigation at every level. Please feel free to call us directly if you are dealing with encroachment issues.