Robert – Adverse possession to a property owner is legalized theft. The new law [RCW 7.28.083] should have struck it down completely. Adverse possession is archaic and with today’s ready access to surveys, there is no reason absolute boundaries cannot be confirmed and legal boundaries protected by the very authorities property owners fund with their hard-earned money. You have far too much faith in “neighborliness” if you don’t think that wealthy landowners will grind a smaller individual/entity into the dust upon occasion and this law gives the tyrant the means to do it. There is no excuse for retaining adverse possession. This is not the old west. This is not Olde England. This is a civilized society in which owning property should be a fundamental right protected by one’s government, not a loosy-goosy grey spectrum of nebulous muck that benefits no one but lawyers. How about this for a law? In the event of a dispute, the local tax board designates an independent surveyor to establsh the line and everyone (gasp) abides by it. Is that so terrible? – Matt



Matt – The governance model you suggest is in complete contradiction to the checks and balances built into the U.S. model of governance. Your idea is a complete non-starter.

Now with respect to adverse possession, please explain to me how a couple is to react when this happens? The couple buys a property which includes an enclosed fence; landscapes up to that fence; and enjoys it without any disruption for 10 years and then the next door neighbor sells their property. The new neighbor has the property surveyed perhaps before purchase, immediately after, or even several years down the line and finds that the land beyond the fence is their neighbors.

Shoot the couple that has been in their place for years should just roll over, that land was never theirs. One needn’t reflect on the fact that at the time of purchase that was what they were legitimately led to believe they were purchasing that real property and what’s more nobody protested for over 10 years.

How about this one Matt? What if under that same situation it is discovered that the fence is inset onto the new purchaser’s land and it is actually the new neighbors who needs to give ground to the longstanding owners who have only occupied up to the fence, is that automatically going to happen?

Also, in surveying it is grantor’s intent, not the actual legal description, which is paramount. And why is that? To protect “bona fide rights.”

I am in agreement that this new law is far from perfect. I wrote an article which appeared in the January Bar News about the time HB 1049 – which ultimately became RCW 7.28.083 – became law. In that article, I suggested that “subjective intent” AKA “good faith” be returned to the analytical framework and in what way. Unfortunately, that thought was discarded and this is what we got. It is not great, but I believe it to be an improvement.

If technology oversteps the law so that every time someone is seeks to buy their real property, at least in the residential setting, people will be able to walk the boundary with their handheld device and accept or discount the risk associated with their land purchase. You suggest that is all that is necessary. Right?

Interestingly enough if it were that simple, this would actually mark a return to the way it was when land was bought and sold in Olde England. That mechanism was this…

The selling and purchasing parties would walk around the whole property to the point of beginning to create closure and then the selling party would pick up a clod of dirt and hand it to the purchasing party to symbolize the finality of the transaction.

Well, where do you think the neighbors were at that time? I doubt they were on a weekend get-away to Barcelona!

Instead, I suspect they were right there making sure that everything went out just as it should and that it wasn’t their land that was being given/taken away. In fact, you can just about bet that the “taxman” got a nice little satchel of coin to assure that the purchaser didn’t meander off course.

Heck, the taxman might have played it on both sides of the line and sought payment from the transacting parties too.

So fantastic idea Matt! Let’s just let the local tax board hire a surveyor.

Although the vast majority of surveyors do good to great work and keep their noses out of the nature of the disputes and seek to identify a line for the benefit of all concerned which best balances grantor’s intent, history of use, and the legal description, do you really think that the surveyor that the local tax board selects is going to be “pure as snow?” I suppose it is possible. But if so, will that surveyor be the most “diligent?” 

But we are now living in Matt’s world where: “In the event of a dispute, the local tax board designates an independent surveyor to establish the line and everyone (gasps) abides by it.”

Good Matt! Land theft may now commence in earnest, me thinks! – RWZ