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AGO 1954 No. 217 - February 26, 1954
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


Where the lien of delinquent local improvement district assessments attached to property after county had acquired tax title thereto, procedure for collection must be under RCW 35.49.070.

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                                                                February 26, 1954

Honorable Phillip Sheridan
Prosecuting Attorney
Snohomish CountyCourthouse
Everett, Washington                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 217

Attention:  Mr. C. P. Brownlee, Deputy

Dear Sir:

            By letter as previously acknowledged you have requested the opinion of this office upon a question arising from the following situation:  In 1934 Snohomish County took tax title to a lot, within the City of Everett, which was not then subject to any local improvement assessment.  In 1940 the city created a local improvement district, within which the lot was included and subjected to assessment.  That assessment is now delinquent.

            You ask whether the city may proceed as a matter of right under RCW 35.49.150, or whether the city must proceed under RCW 35.49.070, in order to collect the assessment for the district.

            In our opinion, RCW 35.49.070 is controlling.


            RCW 35.49.150 (a part of the former RRS § 9393, derived from § 1, chapter 143, Laws of 1929) provides:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "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."

            RCW 35.49.070 (RRS § 9342, derived from § 1, chapter 139, Laws of 1929) 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."

            Apparently the city's theory is that these two statutes provide alternative procedures.  We think the decisions of the supreme court require a different conclusion.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            RCW 35.49.150 by its own language indicates that it refers to a situation where propertyalready subject to an L.I.D. assessment (whether foreclosed by the city or not) issubsequently acquired by the county at a sale for general taxes.  Thus, the notice requirement set out in RCW 35.49.130 (formerly a part of RRS § 9393, as was RCW 35.49.150) is to enable a city to protect outstanding assessments by purchase at the tax sale.  Wilbur v. Van Vechten, 167 Wash. 22; Amende v. Finke, 29 Wn. (2d) 290.  The word "acquire" in RCW 35.49.150, from the context and by the clear and direct statements of the court, in fact means "redeem."  SeeSpokane County v. Certain Lots, 156 Wash. 393, in which the court said that chapter 143 of the Laws of 1929 (RRS § 9393, RCW 35.49.150) was practically identical with chapter 170, p. 470, Laws Ex. Sess. 1925, and was intended to restore the right of redemption given by the latter; andState ex rel. King County Water District v. Stacy, 10 Wn. (2d) 248,Amende v. Finke, supra, and Tacoma v. Perkins, 42 Wn. (2d) 80.  A right to redeem can only mean that the redemptioner has had a right to the property prior to that of the county from which it is redeemed.  It involves the process of getting something back.  Clearly, it can only be applicable where the L.I.D. assessment attached before the county tax sale, whether or not the assessment had been foreclosed.

            On the other hand, RCW 35.49.070 contemplates a situation where assessment liens attach to propertythen held by the county.  Thus it is said inGengler v. King County, 12 Wn. (2d) 227, 230, of the relevant part of the statute:

            "* * * by this amendment county land acquired through foreclosure of general tax liens was made subject to local improvement assessments.  * * *  This proviso, then, contains two parts:  a statement of change of legislative policy from exemption to non-exemption of county lands within cities assessed for local improvements acquired through the foreclosure of general tax liens, and two specific ways to collect the assessment, by the county from the proceeds of the sale of such property, or by selling the property subject to the lien of the assessment.  * * *

            "This holding, then, means (1) that county land acquired through foreclosure of general tax liens is  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] subject to local improvement assessment liens which attach during the time the county has title; (2) that local improvement assessment liens attaching subsequent to county acquisition are not extinguished on resale, notwithstanding the fact that local improvement assessment liens attaching to propertyprior to county acquisition from a general tax foreclosure are extinguished by a resale; (3) that local improvement assessment liens on county land attaching subsequent to acquisition must be paid either (a) by the county from the proceeds of the sale of such property, or (b) by selling the property subject to the lien of such assessment; and (4) that this holding concerns only Rem. Rev. Stat., § 9342, and has no reference whatsoever to Rem. Rev. Stat., § 9393."  (Italics by the court)

            See also,Wilson v. Aberdeen, 18 Wn. (2d) 336.

            The two statutes were enacted by the same legislature, and are separated by only three chapters in the book.  We think they are plainly complementary, and cover two different situations.  The L.I.D. assessment lien may attach before the county acquires tax title, in which case the remedy of the city for the district is under RCW 35.49.150 by way of redemption: or the L.I.D. assessment lien may attachafter the county acquires tax title, in which case the city must act under RCW 35.49.070.

            Since in this case the assessment lien attached to the lot while the county held title, collection must be according to RCW 35.49.070.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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