Washington’s New Adverse Possession Law

Recently, Washington adopted RCW 7.28.083 which allows the court to award the prevailing parting in an adverse possession claim their attorney fees and costs. Prior to this law, a party involved in an adverse possession action had to pay their own attorney fees. Adverse possession cases often involve small strips of land so it would be quite possible that a party would spend more in court costs and legal fees than the strip of land was worth.

This new statute will give a party with a strong claim more incentive to litigate their claim but it will also likely have the effect of driving parties towards early settlements. That is, if a party with a weaker claim realizes that they may likely lose the land (or fail to gain it), pay their own fees and costs and the other party’s fees and costs, they will be more likely to not pursue the claim or have more room during negotiations to resolve it. This law will also give parties who are facing unreasonable opposing parties, the reassurance that they have an increased likelihood of recovering their fees and costs and making their efforts more worthwhile.