When the United States was rapidly growing and land was plentiful, adverse possession was a public policy promoting the efficient use and development of land. That policy no longer seems to have any validity today, but the doctrine is still alive and well.
Adverse possession, like an easement by prescription, is a means of owning property by using it exclusively for at least 10 years. Here are the basic elements copied from a trial brief I did in a boundary dispute:
In order to establish her adverse claim, plaintiff must meet the burden of proof (a preponderance of the evidence) by establishing each and every element of adverse possession under RCW 4.16.020 and as defined in our state courts. The burden of proving the â€œexistence of each element of adverse possession is on the claimant.â€ Hunt v. Matthews, 8 Wn. App. 233, 238, 505 P.2d 819 (1973). See also Lloyd v. Montecucco, 83 Wn. App. 846, 924 P.2d 927 (1996); ITT Rayonier, Inc. v. Bell, 112 Wn.2d 754, 757, 774 P.2d 6 (1989); Anderson v. Hudak at 404-405 citing Chaplin v. Sanders, 100 Wn.2d 853, 676 P.2d 431 (1984); Stokes v. Kummer, 85 Wn. App. 682, – P.2d – (1997); Bryant v. Palmer Coking Coal Co., 86 Wn. App. 204, – P.2d – (1997).
In order to establish a claim of adverse possession, there must be possession for ten years that is: (1) open and notorious, (2) actual and uninterrupted, (3) exclusive, and (4) hostile. ITT Rayonier, Inc. v. Bell, 112 Wn.2d 754, 757, 774 P.2d 6 (1989). See also Lloyd v. Montecucco, 83 Wn.App. 846, 924 P.2d 927 (1996); Anderson v. Hudak at 404-405 citing Chaplin v. Sanders, 100 Wn.2d 853, 676 P.2d 431 (1984); Stokes v. Kummer, 85 Wn. App. 682, – P.2d – (1997); Bryant v. Palmer Coking Coal Co., 86 Wn. App. 204, – P.2d – (1997).
A quiet title action is not always the answer to a boundary dispute, a claim of property or a claim of an easement. There are other causes of action and legal issues to consider as you can see in this Quiet Title Checklist.
In Washington you do not have to have a survey when you buy real estate. I’m not suggesting that we should. Claims of adverse possession are so common in Washington, it does make a person stop and seriously consider whether a surveyor should be hired and whether all boundary markers should be identified before committing to close on the property. Even doing all of this does not put you in the save zone, because there are so many incorrect surveys where the corners are wrong or the boundary is off so many inches or fees. There are also many cases where there are two surveys, an old one and a new and correct one, but the orange flags or markers of the original survey are still there marking what appears to be the true corners or boundaries. There is a tremendous volume of litigation in this area. Sequim and Port Angeles have more than their share of adverse possession claims.
Last Updated on December 19, 2019 by Chuck Marunde