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Understanding Washington State Boundary Fencing Laws

April 18, 2023

Do you own property in Washington State? If so, it's essential to understand the state's laws on boundary fencing. This blog post will discuss the main laws related to boundary fencing in Washington State and provide examples of their practical application.

Partition Fence—Reimbursement

According to Washington State law, when a person erects a fence on their property boundary line, and the adjoining landowner uses that fence to enclose their property, the adjoining landowner is required to pay the fence owner half the value of the partition fence. However, there is an exception: if the fence has woven wire or other material known as hog fencing, the adjoining landowner is not required to pay the extra cost of the hog fencing unless they use the partition fence to create a hog enclosure on their property. In that case, the adjoining landowner must pay half the value of the hog fence.

Example: John builds a fence on his property boundary, and his neighbor, Sarah, uses it to enclose her property. Sarah must pay John half the value of the partition fence. However, if John's fence includes hog fencing and Sarah does not use the fence for a hog enclosure, she is not required to pay the extra cost of the hog fencing.

Partition Fence—Erection—Notice

When two or more landowners share a single fence enclosing their properties, and a partition fence becomes necessary for one party's protection, the other landowner(s) must erect or cause to be erected half of the partition fence upon being notified.

Example: John and Sarah share a single fence enclosing their properties. If John believes a partition fence is necessary for his protection, he can notify Sarah, who must then contribute to erecting half of the partition fence.

Partition Fence—Hog Fencing

Adjoining landowners must maintain partition fences between their properties in equal shares. If one party wants to make the fence capable of turning hogs and the other party does not, the party desiring to use it for this purpose can attach hog-fencing material to the fence posts. This hog fencing remains the property of the person who installed it, and they may remove it at any time, provided they leave the fence in good condition (natural decay of the posts excepted). The attachment of hog fencing does not relieve the other party from maintaining their part of the fence concerning materials used in the fence other than the hog fencing.

Example: John and Sarah share a partition fence, and John wants to use it to keep hogs. He can attach hog-fencing material to the fence posts, but he must maintain the fence in good condition, and the attachment of the hog-fencing does not relieve Sarah from her responsibility to maintain her part of the fence.

Spite Fencing Laws in Washington State

In Washington State, it is unlawful to maliciously erect a structure with the intent to spite, injure, or annoy an adjoining property owner.

Intent to spite, injure, or annoy an adjoining property owner refers to the deliberate act of constructing a fence or other structure with the primary purpose of causing distress or inconvenience to the neighbor. This intent may be demonstrated by various factors such as the height, design, or placement of the fence, or by the behavior of the property owner erecting the fence. Malicious intent can be inferred if the structure is unnecessary for typical boundary purposes, serves no functional benefit, and is clearly designed to obstruct or disrupt the neighbor's enjoyment of their property.

Example of a Spite Fence: A spite fence could be an excessively tall fence, built with opaque materials that block sunlight, views, or air circulation to the neighbor's property. For instance, a homeowner might construct an unnecessarily tall wooden fence right along the property line, which directly obstructs the neighbor's view of a scenic landscape or blocks sunlight from reaching their garden. The spiteful nature of the fence can be inferred from its excessive height, lack of functional purpose, and deliberate intent to diminish the neighbor's enjoyment of their property.

Understanding Washington State boundary fencing laws is crucial for property owners to ensure they follow the rules and maintain good relationships with their neighbors. Familiarize yourself with these laws and apply them as needed to avoid conflicts and disputes regarding fencing between properties.

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