1. Legal Lot Status. It is important that the property being sold complies with the Washington State Subdivision Statute and local county or city codes unless exempt. Otherwise, the Seller may be liable to the Buyer for a subdivision violation, which may result in sanctions and other remedies for the Buyer. https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=58.17.210. Local Jurisdictions usually will not issue building, septic, and other developmental permits without confirmation of Legal Lot Status. In order to establish Legal Lot Status the Seller should confirm on what date the lot was created and then look to the local land use code for compliance. If the lot was “created” before the enactment of the Subdivision Statute and/or reciprocal local code the lot may be “grandfathered in”, and thus, avoid noncompliance. Usually, when the legal description contains a Lot number and the name of a Plat there is not an issue. But a metes and bounds legal description, a portion or part of a larger tract, or a tax parcel in the legal description may be a tell tale sign of an illegal lot. It is recommended to contact the local jurisdiction directly and see if the property has any record of Legal Lot Status:
Whatcom County: “Lot of Record”. See: https://www.whatcomcounty.us/1090/Lot-of-Record
City of Bellingham: “Lot of Record Determination”. See: https://www.cob.org/Documents/planning/applications-forms/legal-lot-determination.pdf
Skagit County: “Lot of Record Certification”. See: https://skagitcounty.net/PlanningAndPermit/Documents/Forms/Lot%20Certification/Lot%20Certification%20Info.pdf
Snohomish County: “Lot Status Verification”. See: https://snohomishcountywa.gov/2923/Lot-Status-Form
King County: “Legal Lot Status” See: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/permitting-environmental-review/info/PermitTypes/landuse/LegalLot.aspx
2. Proper Legal Description. Washington Law strictly requires a complete legal description to be included in a Purchase and Sale Agreement otherwise it may not be enforceable. A street address, the Property ID or the Assessors Parcel Number is not enough.
3. Ownership. Normally the parties are lead to believe that confirmation of ownership is done there is Title Insurance in a real estate transaction. However, standard title insurance does not cover adverse claims, encroachments, or prescriptive rights, for example. The existence of any of these matters causes defects in title or ownership. Another ownership problem arises when the property may have purchased under a Real Estate Contract earlier in the chain of title. In that case, title or ownership is not conveyed until the balance owing to the Seller has been paid in full by the Buyer. If for some reason the Seller does not provide the Buyer with a Warranty Fulfillment Date to satisfy the Real Estate Contract or even if the Deed is provided but the Buyer fails to record it then there may be a gap in ownership. Without perfecting ownership before the Seller signs a Statutory Warranty Deed conveying title to the Buyer, the Seller may be on the hook to the Buyer for breach of warranty.
4. Disclosure Statement. Under RCW 64.06 the Seller has a duty to provide the Buyer with a Disclosure Statement for unimproved or improved residential real estate unless waived by the Buyer. However, the Disclosure Statement is not binding according to the the Statute. The parties, may however, agree to include the Disclosure Statement as part of the Purchase and Sale Agreement.
5. Duty to Disclosure Known Material Defects. Regardless of the Disclosure Statement, the Seller has a duty to disclose known material defects relating to the property, or its condition.
6. On Site Septic Inspection Report Compliance before closing. It is recommended to check with the local jurisdiction about septic system reporting and disclosure compliance.
Whatcom County: Whatcom County Code 24.05.160 (13) provides: “At the time of property transfer, provide to the buyer a copy of the current report of system status on file with the Whatcom County health department, and any available maintenance records, in addition to the completed seller disclosure statement in accordance with Chapter 64.06 RCW for residential real property transfers.” See: http://wa-whatcomcounty.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/2067/OSS-Report-of-System-Status-PDF
7. Violation of the Washington Forest Practices Act, RCW 76.09. A landowner who does not properly comply with the requirements of a Forest Practices Permit may have a six (6) year development moratorium imposed by the local jurisdiction against the property. This may result in a denial of building, septic, subdivision, and certain other developmental permits. http://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=76.09.460. A common scenario involves the harvesting of more than 5000 board feet (1.5 logging truck loads), and a conversion of the land from forestry to non-forestry use, e.g. land use development. Without compliance the Seller likely has a duty to disclose to the Buyer and the Seller may be liable otherwise. The Seller may also have a duty to disclose to the Buyer reforestation obligations. http://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=76.09.070
The above is list is by no way exhaustive. And the above is not intended to be legal advice but is general information provided as a courtesy.
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