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Washington Court Records

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Washington Lien Search

A Washington lien search is performed to find if there are any liens or other encumbrances on personal property or real estate in the state. These searches are essential during real estate transactions to ensure the property is free of pending lawsuits or liens that compromise its ownership or value. The procedure for a lien search usually entails looking through Washington civil court records and public documents kept by county court clerks/recorders, assessors, and other pertinent government entities that maintain property-related records. 

What is a Lien in Washington?

Liens are legal claims against property in Washington State as security for debts or undertakings (Washington Code Title 60 RCW). If the debtor defaults on their payments, they give creditors the authority to take possession of and sell the property. Liens limit the transfer or sale of property until the obligation is paid off, which impacts property ownership. If liens are not paid off, creditors may take legal action or resort to foreclosure.

Types of Liens in Washington

There are different kinds of liens in Washington, depending on the circumstances surrounding their creation and execution. Some examples include:

  • Property liens
  • Tax liens
  • Mechanic's and Materialmen's liens
  • Mortgage liens
  • Judgment liens
  • UCC liens
  • Bank lien (or those placed on bank accounts)
  • Real estate lien

On the other hand, liens can be broadly classified as either general or particular, which indicates their nature, or voluntary or involuntary, indicating how they attach to the property.

General Liens in Washington

In Washington, general liens are enforceable claims made on real estate property to recoup debts that go beyond particular commitments. It affects the debtor's various properties and gives the creditor the right to confiscate any of these assets if the debt is not paid. Some examples include tax liens levied by the government for unpaid taxes, judgment liens resulting from court judgments against debtors, and mechanic's liens filed by suppliers or contractors for unpaid labor or materials on a property. 

Specific Liens

Unlike general liens, which target all properties, specific liens in Washington focus on specific properties to secure a debt. In the event that the obligation remains unpaid, the creditor or lien holders will only pursue collection of its debt from the property designated in the contract. Some examples of specific liens include car loan liens and mortgage liens.

Consensual vs Involuntary Liens

Consensual or voluntary liens, like mortgages, are created with the property owner's permission. On the other hand, involuntary liens are placed on property without the owner's agreement and are usually the result of unpaid debts or taxes. 

The primary difference is that outside parties impose involuntary liens against the property owner's will, whereas the debtor and creditor agree upon consensual liens.

What is a Tax Lien in Washington?

According to Washington Code RCW Title 84, a tax lien is a type of lien the government imposes as security for failing to pay taxes on real estate. In contrast to the tax lien system used in other states, which permits the government to seize property and prevents the debtor from selling it, the tax-deed system used in the state of Washington forces property to be transferred to a new owner by selling the deed at public auction and giving it to the winning bidder upon default. The time frame for tax default before the government initiates the process of legal claims on a debtor's property is three years.

In Washington, real property, which includes all land, buildings, structures, and improvements, and personal property, including all commodities, chattels, stocks, estates, and cash, are all subject to tax liens. (Washington Code RCW 84.04.080 and 84.04.090)

Are Tax Liens Public Record?

Yes, under Washington Public Records Act Chapter 42.56 RCW, tax liens are regarded as public records.

The assessor's office must retain all real and personal property listings and supporting documentation as public records and make them accessible during regular business hours per Washington Code 84.40.020 RCW. This requirement applies to all listings created at the beginning of each year. 

Nonetheless, certain portions of the records can be excluded from being made public as required by law; confidential income data, for instance, cannot be disclosed.

Washington Tax Lien Search

Interested parties may contact the county recorder's office where the property is located or where the owner resides to begin a tax lien search in Washington. This may be the most reliable method of obtaining all the information required. Additionally, interested parties can request a tax lien from the Washington Department of Revenue (DOR) through their records repository.

Although tax lien certificates are not available in Washington since the state is not a tax lien state, inquirers may still obtain information about foreclosure tax sales from these sources, including the date and time of the auction, the location, the names of the parties involved, and other details. The following search options may be utilized:

  • Online: Nearly all Washington counties provide tax foreclosure information for tax-deeds on their websites, making it simple for interested parties to obtain this data. For example, tax foreclosure information may be found in Snohomish, King, Whatcom, and Jefferson counties websites. Additionally, interested parties can view certain tax lien information through the Washington Department of Revenue's website, which is a public records access portal
  • Mail/Phone: The Department of Revenue accepts written requests for public documents via mail. Its official website has all its contact details, including phone, email, and fax numbers. In addition, county recorders keep phone directories that anyone can use to get information about tax liens and foreclosures.
  • In-person: During regular business hours, interested parties may also visit the county recorder's office and ask the clerk to supply them with the necessary tax lien information.

Federal Tax Lien Search

Federal tax liens pertaining to real property in Washington are recorded with the county recorder's office where the property is located. Those pertaining to personal property (physical or intangible) are filed with the Department of Licensing, per Washington Code RCW 60.68.015 and IRM 5. Thus, to access documents for a federal tax lien search, inquirers may send a letter, visit the county recorder's office in person, or request information online. 

What is a Lien on Property in Washington?

A lien on the property is a legal claim or encumbrance that is put on the property in Washington to secure the payment of a debt or obligation. This debt may result from unpaid taxes, unpaid bills to contractors or subcontractors, unpaid court orders, or other debts. The lien acts as a safeguard to ensure the loan is finally paid off, usually by selling the property if it isn't.

Property includes real estate (buildings, lands, and structures) and personal property (encompassing tangibles and intangibles like chattels, stocks, and money) under Washington Code Chapter 84.04 RCW

Who can Put a Lien on a Property?

In Washington, a lien may be placed on a property by someone to whom the owner owes money or other obligations. Parties such as lenders, financial institutions, contractors, state and local tax boards, and the courts frequently affix these encumbrances to real estate.

How to Put a Lien on Property in Washington

The process of filing a lien in Washington varies with the type of lien in question. Petitioners must confirm filing requirements from a legal counsel within the state because liens can be filed voluntarily or involuntarily, which means that the owner's cooperation is required. However, the following procedures are usually involved in putting a lien on property in Washington:

  • The creditor must ensure the lien is justified—for example, by unpaid bills for building supplies, labor, or services rendered. And that the debtor is the actual owner of the disputed item.
  • The creditor must prepare the required paperwork, typically consisting of a lien claim form that varies based on the lien being filed (e.g., mechanic's lien, contractor's lien, etc.). Make sure to enter all necessary data accurately.
  • Before filing a lien in Washington, serve a preliminary notice to the property owner and any pertinent parties. They are notified by this notice that should payment not be received, the creditor intends to establish a lien.
  • After that, the creditor must send the completed lien claim form, any necessary supporting papers, and the filing fee to the county recorder's office where the property is located.
  • According to Washington state law, the creditor must give the property owner a copy of the filed lien after filing it. The creditor may need to take additional legal action to enforce the lien, such as suing to foreclose on the property if the obligation is not paid.

How to Find a Lien on Property in Washington

To perform a property lien search, inquirers may contact the county recorder's office in the area where the property is located. Alternatively, they may use internet resources to search using the owner's name or the property address as search parameters. To conduct in-person searches, interest parties can also visit the county courthouse, where clerks keep records of liens, judgments, and other legal documents. 

 Lien searches can also be performed on third-party aggregate websites; however, users will be required to pay a fee to access the service, and the information obtained from these sites may not be used without validation from official sources. 

Property Lien Search By Address

In Washington, government organizations providing property lien information have specific requirements for processing lien requests. The typical search parameters are the subject's name, the file number, the parcel ID, or the date the document was recorded. Liens are not indexed or recorded by these entities' property addresses.

Alternatively, inquirers can utilize a third-party aggregate site to perform a property lien search in Washington by address. 

Free Lien Search on Property

In Washington, county recorder offices offer free lien search services to the general public. Hence, inquirers may visit the website of these offices or stop by the government agency department office to request the search.

What is a Mechanics Lien in Washington?

In Washington, a mechanic's lien, sometimes referred to as a material-men or construction lien, is a formal claim against real estate by a party who furnished labor, expert services, tools, or supplies for the property's renovations or repairs. It guarantees payment for labor or materials delivered by suppliers, subcontractors, contractors, and other project participants. 

A mechanic's lien implies that the property owner may have to risk losing it through foreclosure to pay off the debts. Chapter 60.04 RCW of the Washington code provides all the laws governing the use of this lien.

Washington Mechanics Lien Search

 In Washington, a mechanic's lien search is performed in the same manner as any other lien search. Anyone interested in locating these records may contact the county recorder's office via mail, in-person visits, or through its official website. In order to facilitate the search, the requester will need to provide pertinent information related to the document of interest.

What is a Mortgage Lien in Washington?

In Washington, a mortgage lien is a legal claim against real estate used as collateral for a mortgage loan. The lender (also known as the mortgagee or lienholder), usually sets a lien on the property when someone takes out a mortgage to buy a home. If the borrower (mortgagor) does not return the loan per the mortgage agreement terms, the lender may foreclose on the property in keeping with the provisions of the document.

A mortgage lien is typically established by a mortgage or deed of trust document that is recorded in the county where the property is located under Washington law (RCW Title 61.12). This document creates the lien on the property as security for loan repayment and describes the conditions of the loan.

What is a UCC Lien in Washington? 

In the state of Washington, a UCC lien is a security interest created under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) that is placed against personal property and serves as a guarantee for the payment or performance of an obligation. In Washington State, the UCC is governed under Title 62A of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW).

UCC Lien Search Washington

In Washington, state records pertaining to UCC liens are kept by the Department of Licensing, while local records are kept at the county recorder's office. Persons seeking to perform a UCC search can visit the county recorder's office and request the records. Meanwhile, the State Department of Licensing offers an online repository where interested parties can search for UCC lien information. Online UCC lien searches are typically performed as follows:

  • Visit the website of the Washington State Department of Licensing;
  • Navigate to the Professions section and select Uniform Commercial Code (UCC);
  • Select File and Search Online;
  • Choose whether to "Search Records" or "Search by File Number" on the left side of the screen. The search criteria under "search records" include the name of the debtor (individual or organization) and the secured party's name (individual or organization). 
  •  Answer the questions provided and fill in the appropriate information to search.

What is a Lien Title in Washington?

In Washington, a car title with a lienholder named on it is known as a lien title. A lienholder is usually a lender or financial organization with a legal claim over the vehicle until the accompanying debt—like an auto loan—is fully settled. Until the loan is repaid, the lienholder's name will be on the car's title. Subsequently, the lienholder will give up their claim to the vehicle, and the title will be given to the owner lien-free. This ensures that the vehicle cannot be sold or transferred unless the outstanding debt is paid off and helps safeguard the lender's interest in the vehicle until the loan is paid back.

Washington Title Lien Search

To confirm the presence of a lien title on a vehicle, inquirers can obtain the title of the car from the person selling it or the automobile lender before the sale occurs. Alternatively, they may get a car history report from suppliers accredited by the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). In most cases, inquirers must provide a license plate or VIN to get a report. 

What is a Judgement Lien in Washington?

RCW 4.56.190 of the Washington Code defines a judgment lien as a legal claim made by a court judgment against a debtor's assets or property in Washington. Liens may be placed on the debtor's property to enforce a court order when one party wins a judgment against another for failure to pay a debt or other legal obligation.

A judgment lien might hinder a debtor's ability to sell or transfer their property once established and becomes a matter of public record. Generally speaking, judgment liens stay in effect until the underlying obligation is paid off or the statute of limitations for executing the judgment runs out. However, the state statutes Chapter 4.56 RCW typically place a 10-year time frame for judgment liens, after which an extension can be sought per state law. 

To get a judgment lien in Washington, inquirers must first obtain a court judgment against the debtor, record the judgment with the county clerk's office, and then take action to enforce the lien, which may include garnishing wages or seizing property (Code for Washington: RCW 4.56.090).

Under Washington law (Code RCW 4.56.210), judgment liens are subject to several restrictions and exemptions. Debtors may also be able to contest or have a judgment lien removed if they feel it was obtained or enforced unfairly. 

Washington Judgement Lien Search

Interested persons may visit the Washington State Courts website and use the Judgment Index Search to perform a Washington judgment lien search—type in the name of the person or company they are investigating. Inquiries can also be made by visiting the county courthouse where the person resides or does business to search county records for judgments. 

How to Get a Lien Release in Washington

As defined by Washington law, a lien release is a formal declaration attesting to the complete satisfaction of a lien on the property and attesting to the settlement of any outstanding debts. Usually, the lien is filed with the relevant state or county government agency to have it removed from public records.

Per Washington Code, RCW 60.04.071, the lien claimant shall promptly prepare and execute a release of all lien rights for which payment is made.

How to Get a Copy of a Lien Release in Washington

Since the county recorder's office typically records lien releases, anyone seeking a copy may contact that office by phone, mail, online, or in person. These documents are also made available to the public through third-party websites, so anyone interested can use them.

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