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AGO 1960 No. 130 - July 05, 1960
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

CITIES AND TOWNS - PROPERTY - LOCAL IMPROVEMENT ASSESSMENT LIENS WHERE LAND IS PURCHASED FROM CITY

(1) Where a third class city purchases tax title property from a county for the amount of general taxes, the sale of the property by the city to a private individual is subject to all local improvement assessment liens whether perfected prior to or during the time the county held title.

(2) If the city had acquired title through its own foreclosure and sells to a private individual the lien remains as to all outstanding local improvement assessments not foreclosed but is discharged as to those which were foreclosed.

(3) The city may sell such property for whatever price it wishes.

                                                                   - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                     July 5, 1960

Honorable Paul Klasen
Prosecuting Attorney
Grant County
Ephrata, Washington                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 130

Dear Sir:

            You have requested an opinion of this office based upon the following factual situation: A third class city purchases tax title real property from a county for the amount of the general taxes.  At the time the county acquired title at the tax foreclosure sale, two installments of a local improvement assessment were delinquent.  At the time the city acquired title, four more assessment installments had become delinquent.  The city now intends to sell the property to a private citizen.

            Your questions are as follows:

            1.  Will the purchaser from the city take the property subject to the lien of any local improvement assessment or installment?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            2.  If the city had acquired title through its own foreclosure and now wishes to sell to a private person what would be the answer to question 1?

            3.   May the city sell the property for any price itmay determine?

            We answer your first and third questions in the affirmative.  In answer to the second question we are of the opinion that the lien remains as to all outstanding assessments or installments not foreclosed, but is discharged as to those which were foreclosed.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            1.  When the county acquired title at the foreclosure sale for general taxes, the local improvement assessments which were a lien at that time would not be extinguished until resale.  RCW 35.49.160;Tacoma v. Perkins, 42 Wn. (2d) 80, 253 P. (2d) 957 (1953).

            Assessments which became a lien while the county held title remain as a lien by virtue of RCW 35.49.070 which provides:

            "Upon the confirmation of the assessment roll for a local improvement district, the city or town treasurer shall certify and forward to the board of county commissioners a statement of all the lots, tracts, or parcels of land held or owned by the county assessed thereon, separately describing each lot, tract, or parcel, with the amount of the assessment charged against it.

            "The board of county commissioners shall cause the amount of such local assessments to be paid to the city or town as other claims against the county are paid.

            "If title to any property thus described was acquired by the county through foreclosure of general tax liens, the county shall:

            "(1) Pay the assessment from the proceeds of the sale of the property; or

            "(2) Sell the property subject to the lien of the assessment."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            See also Gengler v. King County, 12 Wn. (2d) 227, 121 P. (2d) 346 (1942).

            Under the facts the city acquired the property from the county by authority of RCW 35.49.150 which reads:

            "If property is struck off to or bid in by a county at a sale for general taxes, and is subject to local improvement assessments in any city or town, or has been taken over by the city or town on the foreclosure of local improvement assessments, the city or town may acquire the property from the county at any time before resale and receive a deed therefor upon paying the face of such taxes and costs, without penalty or interest."

            In the Perkins case, supra, the court held that when a city "acquires" title to such property from a county under this statute, it is a redemption and not a sale.  The court said:

            "We conclude that there was not a resale by the county; that redemption by the city did not destroy the assessment liens nor did it initiate a new title in the city free of local improvement district assessments; and that the city held the properties in trust for the local improvement districts involved."  (p. 87)

            We therefore conclude that when the city sells the property to a private individual it does so subject to all local improvement assessment liens whether perfected prior to or during the time the county held title.

            2.  A city is authorized to foreclose delinquent local improvement assessments by chapter 35.50 RCW.  If the assessment is payable in installments the enforcement of the lien of any installment shall not prevent the enforcement of the lien of any subsequent installment.  RCW 35.50.040.  If no person bids at the foreclosure sale the city may purchase the property by paying the amount of the delinquent assessment or installment, RCW 35.50.140, but the city takes title subject to the lien of all local improvement assessments still outstanding.  RCW 35.50.150 and 35.50.200.

            Summarizing, property held in trust by a city upon foreclosure of delinquent local improvement assessments may be sold to a private  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] person who takes title subject to the lien of all outstanding local improvement assessments.  The prior delinquent assessments or installments were paid by the city when it bought at the foreclosure sale and their lien discharged.

            3.  Whether the city acquired title from the county under RCW 35.49.150,supra, or at its own foreclosure sale, a resale of the property is governed by RCW 35.53.030.  Tacoma v. Perkins, supra.  That statute provides:

            "A city or town may lease or sell and convey any such property held in trust by it, by virtue of the conveyance thereof to it by a local improvement assessment deed.  The sale may be public or private and for such price and upon such terms as may be determined by resolution of the council, any provisions of law, charter, or ordinance to the contrary notwithstanding.  After first reimbursing any funds which may have advanced moneys on account of any lot, tract, or parcel, all proceeds resulting from lease or sale thereof shall ratably belong and be paid into the funds of the local improvement concerned."

            It would appear that the city may sell such property for whatever price it wishes.  Thestrup v. Grays Harbor County, 12 Wn. (2d) 545, 122 P. (2d) 797 (1942).  Any proceeds received are to be used to reimburse the fund which paid delinquent assessments.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

HENRY W. WAGER
Assistant Attorney General

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