Hello World. It’s been quite some time since I’ve given you a shout out through this blogsite. Instead, you may have found some of my ruminations in the King County Bar Association’s Bar Bulletin. [Sorry, “The Bur Bulletin is for paid KCBA Members only.” You don’t trust me on this one? Ok, the work around is to check me out at Avvo.] At any rate, let’s see if I can limp back into it here after almost three quarters of dormancy.
At this point I want to finish off the final installation of doing initial property research in King County so we can move forward to cover some other topics. (I’m hoping that doesn’t take another 9 months to get going again.)
Alright, now the bulk of my practice surrounds helping neighbors to put down their war accoutrements when there is a boundary dispute in which one neighbor claims adverse possession or its related legal claims and the other neighbor seeks to “quiet title” up to the titled boundary line.
One of the key questions to determine is the degree of difficulty the adverse possessor – who has the burden of proof – will have in demonstrating continued use. If the one claiming adverse possession’s ownership has owned the property for less than the 10 year prescriptive period which is almost universally required per RCW 4.16.020, then they are going to have to have to “tack” (i.e. add) their time of ownership to that of the previous owner.
While sometimes declarations of neighbors may be enough, the declaration of previous owners – though potentially flawed as discussed in this post – can yet be an important piece in helping the parties evaluate their prospects at court – ideally before wasting the lucre, emotion, and time of getting to that point.
[Of course there are those neighbors who just relish opening up their pocketbook fully to those attorneys who both blythly and bluntly believe that these problems are best resolved at court. If you haven’t figured it out already, I generally don’t fall in that camp.]
Continuing, there is a quick and there is a time consuming way to research who are the previous owners – or in legal speak – the chain of title. The slow approach involves going to the assessors’ website; agreeing to the terms and conditions; clicking on the proper general search field and then oftentimes trying to pull documentation by the persons “last name, first name.” Beyond the fact that this is a cumbersome process, other problems which may arise include being swamped with too much information if the owner has other properties or even more problematic if the person has a name which is too common.
The quicker approach is to go straight from the property report as identified in the previous blogpost and click on “Property Detail” on the top, right hand side (just left of the Adobe’s red concave triangle symbol).
Now all you need to do is scroll down almost to the bottom where you will find a section titled “Sales History.” While this isn’t going to be as bullet proof as any chain of title you might obtain from a company offering title insurance, there is a very good chance that you will find out who owned the property going back to somewhere at least around 1992 – and that ought to be more than sufficient at least upfront.
There is certainly more to wax poetic about this page. But after nine months I’m likely to jam my right thumb trying to do that this evening. So why don’t you give it a shot and tell me what else you see in there. Cheers!