Washington

General Procedures and Information

Method of Issuing Title Insurance

Title agents issue title insurance policies and related forms.

Foreclosures

Mortgages are foreclosed judicially in Washington. If a deed of trust contains a private power of sale, it can be foreclosed non-judicially.

For specific questions, contact Washington underwriting personnel.

References:

Related Bulletins: None.

Corporate Directory: Washington Contacts.

Redemption Rights

There are no redemption rights or rights for deficiency once a non-judicial trustee sale has been held. There are redemption rights that vary in time when a judicaly foreclosure occurs. A certificate of purchase is issued which is subject to redemption by the owner and any junior lien holder.

Survey Standards

No information available at this time.

References
Related Bulletins:

MU000034   Commitment Disclosure

Document and Form Information

Acknowledgments

The standard form of acknowledgment is WA Acknowledgment-Individual 1.

Another form of acknowledgment is WA Acknowledgment-Corporation 1.

Conveyances

The customary form of conveyance is the WA Deed-Warranty (Statutory) 1.

Another form of conveyance is the WA Deed-Quitclaim 1.

Witnesses are not required on conveyances executed in Washington.

Releases/Satisfactions

These are the standard release forms:

  • WA Satisfaction of Mortgage 1
  • WA Satisfaction of Mortgage (Partial Release) 1

Security Instruments

Customary security instruments are mortgages and deeds of trust. Deeds of trust are almost always used for residential transactions.

Title Insurance Form Regulations

Consistently used title insurance policy forms and endorsements must be filed with the Commissioner of Insurance. This does not apply to forms of unique character. Stewart Title Guaranty Company has filed the standard ALTA policy forms and endorsements and some state specific endorsements.

References:

Forms List: Washington Forms.

Fees, Rates and Taxes

Deed Transfer Taxes and Documentary Stamps

The real estate excise tax varies by jurisdiction. Generally it is about 1.28 - 1.78 percent of the sales price. The exact amount should be confirmed by the closing office.

The seller pays the state excise tax.

References:

Related Bulletins: None.

Mortgage Transfer Taxes

Washington does not have a mortgage tax.

Real Estate Taxes

Real estate and ad valorem taxes are due in two installments, the first on April 30th and the second on October 31st.

Recording Fees

Recording fees vary on a county by county basis. Additional recording fees are also levied if documents do not comply with particular formatting requirements. An additional $3 charge per document is also required if the document is to be filed electronically.

Search and Examination Fees

Search and examination fees are generally included in the title insurance premium. However, additional search and title examination fees may be charged if the search involves multiple parcels or is unusually difficult.

Title Insurance Rates

Title insurance rates must be filed with the Commissioner of Insurance.

The seller customarily pays for the owner policy and the purchaser customarily pays for the loan policy.

For specific questions, contact Washington underwriting personnel.

References:

Corporate Directory: Washington Contacts.

Spousal Rights

Rights of Spouses and Domestic Partners

Presumption of Community Property

Washington is a community property state.  A deed to a married person creates a strong presumption that the property is held as community property.  RCW 26.16.030.  This is the case even if the deed only names one of the spouses as the grantee.  The presumption that property acquired by a married person during marriage is community property does not apply if the property was  (a) acquired by inheritance; (b) acquired by gift, (c) acquired using separate funds of the grantee or (d) there is a recorded agreement between the parties (prenuptial agreement, settlement agreement, etc.) specifically providing that this property is separate property.  Title companies are reluctant to rely on (b) and (c) above since claims that the property was acquired by gift or using separate funds are often only supported by self-serving affidavits from the parties.  Therefore, title companies frequently require a quitclaim deed from the non-titled spouse when property is claimed to be the separate property of the titled spouse due to a gift or the use of separate funds. 

Signature of Spouse Usually Required Even if Separate Property

Even if property is the separate property of one spouse, and even if there is a recent deed from one spouse to the other, if the property is arguably the couple's homestead, the non-titled spouse must execute any deed, deed of trust or other conveyance of the property.  This is because homestead property must be conveyed or encumbered by both spouses.  RCW 6.13.060.  Since Washington provides for an "automatic" homestead (the law does not require the recording of a homestead declaration), determining whether property is the homestead of the couple can sometimes be difficult.  If they claim that the subject property is not their homestead, if the property is residential title companies will often require them to record a declaration of homestead on another property to clarify that the subject property is not their homestead.  If the spouse has no interest in the property but is required to sign due to their homestead interest, a disclaimer is often added above their signature indicating that they are executing the document solely for the purpose of conveying their homestead interest. 

Spouses Must Execute Same Document

Conveyances or encumbrances of community real property must be executed and acknowledged by both spouses.  Both spouses must sign the same document.  For example, the husband cannot sign one deed to the grantee and the wife sign another to the same grantee.   RCW 26.16.030. 

Use of Powers of Attorney by Spouses

One spouse may use a POA from the other spouse to convey property (including homestead property) to a third party, provided the power of attorney grants the attorney-in-fact broad powers.  RCW 11.94.060

Conveyances Between Spouses

Conveying One Spouse's Separate Property and Making it Community Property.  The grantees should be listed as John Jones and Mary Jones, as husband and wife.  It is a good practice to include a recital saying the deed is for the purpose of converting the property from the separate property of one of the spouses to the community property of both.  The deed should not describe the conveyance as a transfer of an undivided ½ interest in the property.  If that is done, the non-titled spouse gains a community property interest in an undivided ½, and the titled spouse retains a ½ interest as their separate property, but also has a community property interest in the other ½ interest.

Conveying Community Property into One Spouse as Their Separate Property The grantors on the deed should be both spouses and the deed should recite that it is for the purpose of conveying the community interest and making the property the separate property of the grantee spouse.

Death of Spouse Holding Community Property.

If one spouse dies intestate (without a will), the deceased spouse's share of the community property passes to the surviving spouse.  RCW 11.04.015.   If one spouse dies leaving a valid will that is probated, the deceased spouse is entitled to devise one-half of the community estate.  RCW 26.16.030.  Notwithstanding the above, both halves of community property estate are subject to probate administration for purposes of paying community debts, costs of administration, etc. 

Judgments Against Spouses.

A judgment filed against a married person alone attaches to their separate property and is presumed to also attach to their community property (based on the presumption that it is a community debt). A judgment filed against a married person does not attach to the separate property of their spouse. (RCW 26.16.040)

Domestic Partners

Washington State has a domestic partnership registry allowing same-sex couples to receive certain benefits previously afforded only married couples. The domestic partnership law does not grant domestic partners all of the rights afforded married persons and does not grant domestic partners community property type rights. Domestic partners will hold property as joint tenants or tenants in common.

To register, domestic partners must submit a notarized declaration and pay a fee to the Secretary of State who will then maintain a register of domestic partnerships. Each partner is given a Certificate of Registry evidencing their status as domestic partners. Since these registrations can be terminated, a Certificate of Registry should not be relied upon without confirming with the Secretary of State that the domestic partnership has not been terminated.

The domestic partnership law does not change how domestic partners hold title. Domestic partners do not have community property rights. Requests to vest grantees as "X and Y, as registered domestic partners" should not be granted since this language does not have any legal impact (the parties would still be tenants in common). You may instead vest them as "X and Y as domestic partners and tenants in common."

A deed with the grantee clause reading "X and Y as domestic partners with rights of survivorship" is problematic. Washington courts have traditionally required very explicit use of the phrase "joint tenancy with rights of survivorship" in order to create a joint tenancy. If the domestic partners request to be vested as joint tenants, the grantee clause of the deed should read: "X and Y as joint tenants with rights of survivorship and not as tenants in common."

If requested to show the domestic partnership status of the owners/insureds in Schedule A of our policy, the names of the individuals listed in the grantee clause of the deed should be used for the vesting and you may quote language from the deed reciting their status. For example: "X and Y, who acquired title by deed reciting ‘X and Y as Registered Domestic Partners.'"

Under the new law, a domestic partner is now treated the same as a surviving spouse on the intestate distribution chain. If you are relying on the status of an individual as domestic partner in a lack of probate situation, you must confirm with the Secretary of State that the domestic partnership was not terminated.

One domestic partner may name the other as their attorney in fact under a power of attorney. However, a termination of the partnership will revoke the authority granted under the power of attorney (unless the document explicitly provides that the authority of the attorney in fact survives the termination of the partnership). Therefore, if you are asked to rely on a power of attorney naming a domestic partner as the attorney in fact, you must confirm with the Secretary of State that the partnership was not terminated.

Statute Of Limitations

Statute Of Limitations

Varies from three to six years.

Automatic Homestead

Automatic Homestead

Homestead Exemption in Washington State

What Qualifies as a Homestead?   

 

Real or personal property (i.e., a detached mobile home) that a person intends to use as their permanent residence can qualify for the exemption.  The exemption is automatic once the owner occupies improved property as their principal residence. RCW 6.13.040.  The exemption can also be on unimproved property or on property the owner is not using as their principal residence.  However, to claim the homestead exemption on this type of property, the owner must record a declaration of homestead. RCW 6.13.040.  A spouse can claim the homestead exemption on property owned as the separate property of their spouse.  RCW 6.13.020. 

 

What is the Amount of Exemption? 

 

In nearly all situations, the exemption is equal to the lesser of the owner's equity in the property (e.g., the market value less all encumbrances and liens superior to the judgment that is being enforced) and $125,000.  RCW 6.13.030.

 

What is the Effect of the Homestead Exemption?

 

Homestead property is exempt from attachment and execution up to the limit.  However, non-consensual liens and certain judgments are not subject to the homestead exemption (see list below).  If the owner sells the homestead property, the proceeds of the sale, up to the homestead amount, are protected from attachment and execution for one year.  If the owner uses the proceeds to buy other homestead property, the proceeds and the new property are protected. 

In addition to Federal Tax Liens (26 U.S.C. 6334), judgments relating to the following debts are not impacted by the homestead exemption (RCW 6.13.080):

 

1.                  Mechanic's liens;

2.                  Deeds of trust and mortgages executed and acknowledged by both spouses (if the owner was married when the document was executed);

3.                  Security interests in personal property (i.e., a mobile home);

4.                  Judgments against property that the debtor or their spouse has already claimed as exempt in a recent bankruptcy filing;

5.                  Certain judgments for child support or for a spouse as a part of a divorce (e.g. one party gets the house and owes the other $x amount); and

6.                  Judgments for homeowners' association dues so long as certain notices have been provided.

 

Abandonment. 

 

A homestead will be deemed abandoned if the owner does not reside there for six months.  However, an owner can avoid this by recording a declaration of non-abandonment.  RCW 6.13.050

 

Conveyance/Encumbrance by Spouses.  Property subject to the homestead exemption that is owned by a married person, even if it is separate property, can not be conveyed or encumbered without the signatures of both spouses  (RCW 6.13.060).  Note that  RCW 26.16.095 and 100. says that if property is titled in a married person but has their name on the deed alone, their spouse who is not on the title can file a document putting the world on notice that they have an interest in the property.  The statute goes on to say that if the non-titled spouse fails to record such a notice within a given time, a bona fide purchaser takes free and clear of the spouses interest.  We would not want to rely on this to tell a married person who is dealing with separate property or who is in title alone that they don't need to have their spouse sign (since RCW 6.13.060 requires homestead property to be conveyed by both spouses, regardless of whether it is community or separate property).   Even a quitclaim from the non-titled spouse wouldn't get around 6.13.060.  The only scenario where we could live without the spouse signing is if they had a recorded declaration of homestead on OTHER property and either they were in title alone on this property or the other spouse quitclaims to them.  Note, we can have the non-titled spouse sign and add a recital to the deed or deed of trust saying they are doing so only to convey their homestead rights.

 

Execution on Homestead Property

 

Before executing on homestead property the judgment creditor must obtain a court order appointing an appraiser to determine if there is any equity beyond the homestead amount (and any liens not impacted by the exemption).  If there is equity, the court will first look to see if the property can be divided to keep the homestead on one parcel and then sell off the other parcel to satisfy the judgment.  If it can't be divided, the court will sell it anyway in satisfaction of the judgment. 

 

Example of Operation of Exemption. 

 

Assume the property owner owns a property valued at $200,000 and that the property qualifies as their homestead.  Also assume the owner and his wife executed a deed of trust for $130,000, that the owner has a $25,000 tax lien recorded against him and also a judgment lien against him for $30,000 resulting from a business debt.  Since the liens not impacted by the exemption ($130,000 deed of trust and $25,000 tax lien) total $155,000, and since the homestead exemption is $40,000, the holder of the $30,000 judgment lien could only recover $5,000 from the property following an execution sale.   

 

 

Real Estate Practices

Attorney Involvement

Please describe any requirements under applicable state law for attorney, abstractor or other special professional involvement, for example, in the search, examination, opinion of title, signing, closing, disbursement, recording, preparation of documents, and/or policy-issuance.

Escrow documentation may be prepared by attorneys or by Limited Practice Officers (LPOs) licensed under Admission to Practice Rule 12 (APR 12). The latter are limited as to the scope and nature of the pre-authorized documents that the LPO may complete for execution by the parties, as opposed to the source of the Escrow Officer functions in other jurisdictions.

Cancellation/Commitment Fee

Does your state permit or require a cancellation fee or commitment fee upon cancellation?

Yes, but the cancellation fee can be waived in certain circumstances.

Certificate of Release (of Mortgage)

If anyone other than the lender (such as a title agent, settlement agent, underwriter or attorney) has the authority to release the security instrument, please describe.

On May 1, 2013, statute RCW 61.24.110 was amended to clarify agency relationships in reconveyances of deeds of trust and set out procedures if the trustee is unable or unwilling to recovney the deed of trust within 120 days following payment. 

Deeds

Please describe the kinds of deeds that are customary for commercial and residential transactions.  Please describe the kinds of deeds that are generally not insurable.

Customary:  Warranty Deed (maximum warranties conveyed), Bargain and Sale Deed (warrants only against those encumbrances done/suffered by grantor), and Quit Claim Deed (warrants nothing).

Not Insurable:  Tax Deed, Trustee’s Deed (may be insured under special circumstances).

Joinder of Spouses

If a non-title holding spouse is required to join in the execution of a deed or a security instrument, please describe.  Any analogous rights, such as those in a civil union or equivalent, should also be addressed. 

A non-title holding spouse is generally required to execute the deed of trust.  If and when the beneficiary forecloses, the non-title holding spouse’s community interest will be included in the foreclosure.

Mortgage Tax

Is there a mortgage tax in your state? If yes, is it uniform across the state or does it vary? If it is uniform, please describe. 

No.

Payment Customs

Who customarily pays for:
(a) Owner’s Policy?
(b) Transfer Tax & Recording Fee?
(c) Survey Charges?
(d) Closing/Settlement Fees?

(a) Seller
(b) Transfer - Seller, Recording - Buyer
(c) Buyer
(d) Both may pay agreed upon portion
All are negotiable.

Policy Countersignatures

Please describe any statutory or regulatory requirements for countersignatures in order to issue the policy (for example, residency requirements).

There are no special requirements for policy countersignatures. The issuing agency must be licensed in Washington and anyone that is authorized to sign on behalf of the agency may countersign the policy.

Real Estate Taxes

Please describe the general tax year, due dates, and delinquency dates, including lien dates and payment cycle.

Taxes are liens on the property from January 1 in the year levied until paid. Due dates are April 30 (first ½) and October 31 (second ½). Delinquent taxes are subject to a 12% per annum interest rate computed on a monthly basis from delinquency date, and an additional 3% penalty is assessed on the amount of tax delinquent on May 31 of the year in which the tax is due. An additional 8% penalty is assessed on the total tax delinquent on November 30 of the year in which the tax is due. 

Search and Examination Fees

Is it permissible and/or customary to charge a separate search and/or examination fee, and under what circumstances? If your jurisdiction is all-inclusive, please state that.

Not customary. Extra-work charges may be made under some circumstances, but are considered part of the premium.

Search Requirements

Is there a minimum period of time for a title search required: (a) by state law, (b) pursuant to marketable record title acts, or (c) by any other applicable title examination standards (e.g., state bar association)?  Please respond to each category.  If a minimum search period exists for any category, please state it.
  • No.
  • No.
  • No.

Security Instruments (Deed of Trust vs Mortgage)

Please describe the customary and permissible form(s) of security instruments used in your state. 

Who can be listed as the trustee on the Deed of Trust (e.g., residency and/or natural person requirements, etc.)? Can an underwriter or title agent be designated as the trustee, and, if so, is it customary?

Deed of Trust (common) and Mortgages (rare). The trustee of a deed of trust must be 1) any domestic corporation of which at least one officer is a Washington resident, or 2) any title insurance company authorized to insure title to real property in Washington, or its agents, or 3) any attorney who is an active member of the Washington state bar association at the time he/she is named trustee, or 4) any professional corporation, LLC, LLP, incorporated under the applicable Washington statutes, all of whose shareholders, members, or partners, respectively are either licensed attorneys or entities, provided all of the owners of those entities are licensed attorneys, or any domestic corporation wholly owned by any of these entities, or 5) any agency or instrumentality of the U.S. Government, or 6) any national bank, savings bank, or savings and loan associated chartered under the laws of the United States. It is customary that a title agent (not underwriter) be listed as a trustee on a deed of trust.

Standard Exceptions and Requirements

Please identify the standard exceptions and requirements that are customarily used in your state.

Standard Exceptions

  • Rights or claims of parties in possession not shown by the Public Records.
  • Easements, or claims of easements, not shown by the Public Records.
  • Encroachments, overlaps, boundary line disputes, or other matters which would be disclosed by an accurate survey or inspection of the Land.
  • Any lien, or right to a lien, for services, labor, or material heretofore or hereafter furnished, imposed by law and not shown by the Public Records.
  • Taxes or special assessments which are not shown as existing liens by the Public Records.

State-specific Policy Variations

If there are state-specific changes to the provisions in the ALTA policies (e.g., Arbitration, Minerals), please describe.

None.

Title Insurance Form and Filing Regulations

Please describe the form and/or rate filing requirements, if any, related to policies and endorsements. Please describe any applicable rating bureau. 

Rate and form filings are done on a “file and use” basis. Rates may be used 15 days after submission and forms may be used 30 days after submission.

Transfer Taxes

Is there a transfer tax in your state? If yes, is it uniform across the state or does it vary? If it is uniform, please describe.

Yes, a real estate excise tax. The excise tax varies from county to county. Certain transactions are exempt.

Usury

Is usury coverage available?

Yes.

Withholding Taxes

What are your state’s requirements, if any, with regard to withholding proceeds from a sale, similar to but not including FIRPTA?

None.

Witness Requirements

Are witnesses required on a deed or security instrument? If so, please describe.

None, other than acknowledgment.

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