I bought a property in Washington state about 17 years ago. A couple of months before the purchase, the neighbor replaced a fence with a new one that pushed about 1 foot into my property. After purchase we talked about it and being a nice neighbor I agreed to let them keep the fence as is until I have some use for the land since I didn’t want them to spend more money to move it. Now I want to make use of the land but they are now saying the fence has been there since 1970 and are refusing to move it. Can I legally just cut down the fence? Or what is the process to have the court order them to remove it?

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    You've picked up a close vote, probably because this is a duplicate, or because it seems you are asking for legal advice. (Those are the two main reasons) I recommend you search here and elsewhere on the term "adverse possession". Hopefully that will help, then come back with a more focused question. Best of luck! Commented Jan 13 at 17:08
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    Sure hope you formalized that agreement 17 years ago. Have you heard of adverse possession? Sounds like you got hoodwinked 17 years ago. They don't even need to say the fence has been there since the 1970s. They could say it was there since 2013 and it would be enough. If they have documentation of when the fence was built and you have nothing then it doesn't look good. If it's just their word against yours then it might be different in court.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Jan 14 at 8:01
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    There may be a way to have the borders of your land officially "re-measured" (I don't know the correct word), and since the difference is expected to be small, you may succeed with claiming that you didn't know about their fence being on your property until now, because how could you? But this can only work (if it can work at all) if there's no written agreement.
    – tevemadar
    Commented Jan 14 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


The fence itself is his property, not yours, so you cannot destroy it. You would have to demand that he remove his fence from your property, and have that demand enforced by the courts. In so doing, there is a good chance that he will do the paperwork necessary to get that land declared to be his, not yours, depending on what agreement the two of you have.

When a person "openly and notoriously" takes your land, it can become their land (known as "adverse possession"). The prophylaxis against seizure by adverse possession is to explicitly permit the fence, i.e. to have given the neighbor a document announcing revocable permission to put the fence on your land. If you did not do that back then, then you could still make a demand to remove the fence, if you do so within 7-10 years (which you did not do). You would like to have availed yourself of RCW 7.28.010, but he can likewise initiate an action against you to quiet title. The statute of limitations which generally sets the limit to 10 years, though that can be shortened to 7 years under RCW 7.28.070, if a person has paid taxes on the land for 7 years.

The matter of giving him permission to keep the fence is crucial, and it is time to lawyer up.

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    The second and third paragraphs are spot on. The first is not accurate. If it really is your land, you have the right to tear it down.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 13 at 19:30
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    This makes no sense at all. So you're saying that my neighbour can buy a post, dig a hole on my land and put the post in it, and then claim that I can't remove it as I "don't own the post"? Why can't I simply remove the post from my land and give it back to my neighbour? This shows that your first paragraph contains an invalid argument.
    – Contango
    Commented Jan 14 at 12:42
  • Step one, admit nothing. Two, have it surveyed. 3, point to the survey marks. ???
    – Mazura
    Commented Jan 14 at 14:29
  • ` The prophylaxis against seizure by adverse possession is to explicitly permit the fence, i.e. to have given the neighbor a document` The questioner did make such an explicit agreement, and unless my understanding is flawed, the lack of a physical document supporting it simply makes it more difficult to prove that fact. If so, the contract exists and is in the questioner's unambiguous favour. It just might be hard to prove it, if their neighbour is willing to perjure themselves.
    – user99478
    Commented Jan 15 at 0:20

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