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September 29, 2008 3:51 PM

Property line dispute has neighbors in stalemate

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: My neighbor has claimed about a two-foot strip of my property and erected "no trespassing" signs along it. He says I'll be sued if I don't respect this boundary. I've had a survey done, which shows that my original boundary line is correct.

However, this neighbor has removed the new survey markers and says he'll cut down the trees in the disputed area. I showed him our state law requiring him to get a surveyor to replace the markers. He says he won't do it. What agency can I contact to enforce these laws?

A: "In my experience, once municipalities see there's a neighborhood dispute, they decline to get involved," says Seattle attorney Ken Hart, of Larson Hart Shepherd.

Even if your local government will get involved, Hart thinks you need to do more.

"[Your situation] has gone past the point where you can rely on an agency or municipality to protect your interests in a timely fashion," Hart said. "The trees may be gone before they have time to act."

Since your neighbor shows no indication of backing down, you probably need legal muscle to sort this situation out and defend your interests. This means hiring a real-estate attorney experienced in handling boundary disputes.

Among other things, the attorney can help you research whether the neighbor might have a valid adverse-possession claim. Additionally, the attorney might be able to help you pursue a quiet title action -- basically, a lawsuit to clear the title of a specific problem -- to clarify the true boundary line.

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