A recent Washington State appellate court affirmed a trial court decision which found in favor of a property owner arguing that a common boundary was the real designation between adjacent owners of land as opposed to a legal description.
The common grantor doctrine protects an original grantee acquiring property in “good faith reliance on the boundary description provided by the common grantor who originally owned both lots in their entirety” and thus had power to determine the location of the boundary. Even without a formal agreement, the boundary binds grantees if the land was sold and purchased with reference to the line and the parties agreed about the identical tract of land transferred by the sale.
The case stems from a property owner that sold two adjacent tracts of land at different times. A fence separated the two parcels of land. Both purchasers of the property bought the land and operated under the assumption that the fence was the boundary between parties. It was not until a year after a survey commissioned by one of the property owners (and three years after the actual purchase of the lot) did the property owner claim a dispute with respect to the property boundary. The court asserted that the parties operated under the assumption that the fence was the boundary between the parties and it was clear that the fence provided notice to subsequent purchasers.
The opinion is notable as it begins with an excerpt from a poem by Robert Frost.
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