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Ask Barrister Your Own Question
Barrister
Barrister, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 36215
Experience:  16 years real estate, Realtor. Landlord 26 years
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I bought a house a year ago and it has a long driveway and

Customer Question

I bought a house a year ago and it has a long driveway and the neighbors have been using it to access their garage.
There is no recorded easement.
They won't let us build a fence on our property line along the driveway because they said that we HAVE to give them access to the driveway so they can get to their garage, but they can easily access it from their backyard.
It's our driveway and there's no recorded easement or verbal agreement on shared access. They don't even pay for maintenance or anything.
My question here is, can I build a fence along the driveway?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I am a licensed attorney who will try my very best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can. There may be a slight delay in my responses as I research statutes or ordinances and type out an answer or reply, but rest assured, I am working on your question..Can you tell me how long they have been using your driveway to access their property?..thanksBarrister
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
hello, thank you for taking my question.
they have been using our driveway for about a year and a half -- from the time we bought the house. We do not know if they have been using the driveway prior to us buying the house. Thank you for your time.
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Ok, whether they could legally force you to allow them to continue to use the driveway depends on how long they have used it. This is because if someone uses another person's property without permission for a statutorily prescribed amount of time, they can gain the legal right to continue to do so. This is called an "easement by use" and is governed under Washington's "adverse possession" laws. In Washington the period of time for adverse possession must be at least seven (7) years. Washington Code §7.28.050-.090..So if they can prove that they have used the driveway for at least 7 years continuously, they could claim the legal right to continue to do so if they filed a "quiet title" lawsuit under the adverse possession laws..With that said, you have the right to install any kind of fencing you want on your property and can ignore what the neighbor says. They have no legal rights to prevent you from building whatever you want on your land. .It would then be up to them to try and file a quiet title action and prove that they have used the driveway for at least 7 years to get an easement by use...thanksBarrister
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
They are selling their house now, can we build a fence once its sold and the new owners move in? Would the 7 year condition still apply?
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
They are selling their house now, can we build a fence once its sold and the new owners move in? Would the 7 year condition still apply?.Sure, you can immediately build the fence or do so later if you wanted to wait..But yes, the 7 years still applies because the next owner can "tack on" any use by the previous owner to meet that 7 year requirement..,thanksBarrister
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The owner of the house passed away and these are the owner's sons who are using the driveway who also are *not* registered as owners of the house. Does the 7 years still apply? Or is it only applied to the owner of the house?Is there any way that we can legally fence our driveway?
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Only the legal owner of the house could claim the right to continue use of the drive if they met the 7 year requirement themselves or by tacking. .So if you terminate that use and prevent it from continuing, you can break the chain and prevent them from being able to legally establish the easement by use..There is nothing that would prevent you from fencing the driveway...that is what I am trying to get across to you...If you did, the owners of the house or the estate would have to file a lawsuit against you at their expense, which could be thousands, and try to prove that they met the legal requirement of 7 years use. With the owner deceased, someone else would have to try and testify that they did meet it..That is assuming that they even tried to file a quiet title action to try and get an easement by use. If they never did so, then you have nothing to worry about. If they did, then the burden is on them to prove their case...thanksBarrister