In order to establish a claim of adverse possession, there must be possession that is: (1) open and notorious, (2) actual and uninterrupted, (3) exclusive, and (4) hostile. Possession of the property with each of the necessary concurrent elements must exist for the statutorily prescribed period of 10 years. Wash. Rev. Code § 4.16.020. As the presumption of possession is in the holder of legal title, the party claiming to have adversely possessed the property has the burden of establishing the existence of each element.
Defendant adverse possessor purchased a houseboat, which he moored on a lake. The property that was the subject of the action was directly adjacent to that moorage and was purchased by the plaintiff landowner, who had paid the property taxes continuously since its purchase. The landowner filed an action to quiet title and prayed for damages for trespass and for the ejectment of the adverse possessor. The trial court quieted title in favor of the landowner based on the adverse possessor's failure to establish his exclusive possession of the disputed property for the statutory period. The appellate court affirmed holding that the adverse possessor did not raise a genuine issue of fact on the question of his good faith claim of right to the property. On appeal, the court affirmed on the basis of the adverse possessor's failure to establish exclusive possession, and reversed the appellate court's alternative holding that the adverse possessor failed to establish a good faith claim to the property.
Did the court err in granting summary judgment against the defendant based on the defendant's failure to establish his exclusive possession of the disputed property for the statutory period?
The court held that the adverse possessor's shared and occasional use of the property did not rise to the level of exclusive possession indicative of a true owner for the full statutory period. Moreover, good faith no longer constituted an element of adverse possession.