Property Line and Fence Laws in Washington

Unfortunately, good fences do not always make good neighbors. It's all too common for adjoining property owners to have differing opinions about fences and trees along the property line. If you live in Washington and are in a dispute with a neighbor, or simply want to know more about how the law applies to you, read on to learn more about property line and fence laws in Washington.

Washington Property Line, Fence, and Tree Trimming Laws

Washington statutes address legal issues related to common fences separating your property from your neighbors. If you're conducting legal research, you can look to the Revised Code of Washington for laws about building, paying for, and maintaining boundary fences.

Washington law also prohibits building "spite fences," which is a term for a structure built for no legitimate reason other than to harass your neighbor. Washington laws allow courts to issue injunctions to stop the construction of spite fences or other structures.

Washington case law addresses property owners' right to trim encroaching branches from a tree located on a neighbor's property. The law recognizes your right to exercise "self help" by trimming encroaching branches up to the property line. However, you can't exercise this right to your neighbor's detriment; you may be held liable if your trimming causes significant harm to the tree.

The following chart provides more information about Washington laws governing property lines, fences, and tree trimming.

Statutes and Case Law

Boundary Fences: Revised Code of Washington Sections 16.60.020, 16.60.030, and 16.60.050

Spite Fences: Revised Code of Washington Section 7.40.030

Tree Trimming: Maier v. Giske,154 Wn. App. 6 (2010)

Boundary Fence Rules

  • In most circumstances, a landowner who builds a boundary fence along a property line can seek reimbursement from the neighboring landowner for one-half the cost of the fence.
  • A landowner building a boundary fence must first give notice to the adjoining landowner.
  • Adjoining landowners are jointly responsible for maintaining boundary fences.

Spite Fence Rules

  • Washington statutes allow courts to enjoin the construction of any structure built maliciously and intended to spite, injure, or annoy an adjoining landowner.

Tree Trimming Rules

  • In most circumstances, a property owner has the right to trim encroaching tree branches up to the property line.
  • If trimming a neighbor's tree branches kills or irreparably harms the tree, the property owner may be liable for timber trespass.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Property Line, Fence, and Tree Resources

Get Property Dispute Relief from a Washington Attorney

Sharing a boundary line with a neighbor can unfortunately lead to conflict. Fences and trees along the property line can easily give rise to disagreements. In Washington state, the law addresses in detail the rights and responsibilities of adjoining landowners. To learn more about how the law applies to your specific case, contact an experienced Washington real estate attorney.

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