You just found out that your neighbor has “something” located beyond what the survey line indicates onto your property. The “something” could be their fence, their patio, their shed, or any other number of items made by hand or nature – including trees, shrubs, or garden. What should you do about it?

A.     Rip that “something” out of the ground and fling it to the neighbor’s side of the line.

B.     Carefully remove that “something” and gingerly place on the neighbor’s side of the line.

C.     March right over to your neighbor’s house and tell them they need to move it themselves.

D.     Call the neighbor up; send them an email; or perhaps even post a “nice” note to them.

E.     Let it be … and call a boundary dispute attorney to determine your rights.

The answer is: E.

If you just discovered this issue because your surveyor revealed it to you, then there is a fair chance your neighbor has an unperfected claim to a portion of your land.

Instead of communicating with your neighbor in an uninformed writing which serves to send them running to their own attorney, it is better to consult with your own attorney first. This gives you the proper ammunition and aim before you shoot off a writing which if the matter escalates becomes evidence.

If you don’t have a legal leg to stand on, the best approach is to “let it be”. Wait until your neighbor lists their property for sale to move forward. Then seek to sort the matter out because this is when you have the greatest leverage to sort the matter out quickly.

If the matter is a toss-up, then having an attorney work through the situation with you and your neighbor (and their attorney) in an amicable fashion is usually the best approach. If the neighbor is one who needs to be persuaded, you have someone right there ready to go who has a sense of the case and the players involved already.

If the matter is iron-clad on your side, then you won’t have given the neighbor evidence which “can and will be used against you.” Let an attorney who knows how to communicate with legal clarity do this for you instead.

Ok, so that knocks out all the possibilities in answer: D. Answer C, should be analyzed in the same way except it becomes more complex because by having a verbal exchange with your neighbor there is now a “he said/she said” which will need to be expensively explored.

Items A and B, in which items over the land are removed, should be rejected out of hand. Unless absolutely certain your neighbor is wrong, if you damage their property, you will have handed them a claim for Waste.

Waste statutes RCW 4.24.630 (Damage to Land and Property) and RCW 64.12.030 (Timber Trespass) both have fee shifting provisions which allow the opposing attorney’s reasonable fees to be paid by you should a court find you were in the wrong and that the land has actually become your neighbors.

This is critical because there are a lot of hungry attorneys who don’t mind selling their clients on the idea that they will do their level best to seek to have their fees shifted to them from you without also indicating that in most cases the matter gets settled long before trial. The results at best for them after you and your neighbor have spent a heck of a lot of money is only the shifting of one thing – dirt.

By the process of elimination, the answer is: E.

‘Let it be, first talk to me … and the rest of the team at Justice Smiles.’ Cheers!