Governor Gregoire announced her proposed plan for balancing the biennium budget today. The Seattle Times’ Andrew Garber reports this story in full here. Yet, the story is perhaps best captured by the following quote contained within it:
Overall, the proposed budget closes a projected $4.6 billion shortfall in the next two-year budget — which runs through June 2013 — with nearly $4 billion in cuts and suspended initiatives, plus about $680 million from reserves and raiding accounts outside the state general fund.
Those of us who from time to time yet look at the paper’s print edition might have noticed something else. On page A8 there was a picture with a caption underneath that reads as follows: “State Budget Director Marty Brown stands next to a sign noting the state’s plan to sell some state-owned [real] properties.” Hmmm?
Albeit not probable, this appears to be a possible opportunity for some land-owners with boundary encroachments onto state land to help both Washington State and themselves out of a jam. Here’s the idea.
While in theory private owners can sometimes gain title by adverse possession to state lands, the reality is that this is an impossibility in Washington State. What this means is that even for someone who purchased real property with encroachments onto state lands well over the 10-year statutory period in the past, regardless if they had knowledge of these encroachments at the time of purchase or not, they will never own what they have always considered to be their own property … at least not through the doctrine of adverse possession.
The best people in this situation can hope for is that the state will never identify their encroachments. If it does, it will take one of three courses of action. (1) Require removal of the encroachments. (2) Offer to lease the land underneath the encroachments. Or, if the land owner is lucky, (3) provide a license (which is revocable) to use of the encroached upon land.
Now things really get interesting for real property owners with encroachments onto state land when they seek to sell their property. Real property seller’s disclosure Form 17, per RCW 64.06.020, right up there at the top seeks disclosures as to the marketability of title with respect to boundary issues.
Well, perhaps the state would be willing to sell off slivers of state land here and there to allow people that are not currently compliant to become so without requiring them to pull up stakes. The benefit for the property owner would be clean title. The benefit for the state would be more money in its coffers for land that it already neglects to use for government purposes. It’s a “twin win.”
There’s only one problem. A program like this would have to be duplicated several thousand if not tens of thousands of times in an efficient fashion in order to make sense to any potentially interested parties. So, barring a commission established to identify the magnitude of this opportunity [$]; appointment of a sub-commissioner and attendant cronies to handle this program [$]; and the creation of an equitable system that would likely require some sort of amnesty [$], this opportunity is not likely to go anywhere. That’s a shame!
That said; if you have a problem of this nature, it is probably still worth exploring your options with a boundary law attorney. It might mean the difference, to give an example, between being required to tear down your garage, or figuring out a way to lease the state’s land upon “which it stands.”