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Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1974 No. 61 -
Attorney General Slade Gorton


The legal description for real property required by RCW 58.09.060 to be included in records of survey for land surveyors is simply that description of a tract of real property which is sufficient to meet the requirements of a valid deed of conveyance.

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                                                                   June 28, 1974

Honorable James E. Carty
Prosecuting Attorney
301 County Court House
Vancouver, Washington 98660                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1974 No. 61

Dear Sir:
            By recent letter you have requested our opinion regarding the meaning of the term "legal description" as it appears in RCW 58.09.060 with respect to the contents of records of survey of real property.  We respond to this inquiry in the manner set forth below.
            By its enactment of chapter 50, Laws of 1973, now codified as chapter 58.09 RCW, the legislature provided,
            ". . . a method for preserving evidence of land surveys by establishing standards and procedures for monumenting and for recording a public record of the surveys.  . . ."1/
             RCW 58.09.040, codifying § 4 of this act, provides for the filing of records of survey by land surveyors ". . . with the county auditor in the county or counties wherein the lands surveyed are situated," and RCW 58.09.060, codifying § 6 of the act, details the requisite contents of those survey records.  With emphasis on the portion of this statute to which you have called our attention, RCW 58.09.060 reads as follows:
            "(1) The record of survey as required by RCW 58.09.040(1) shall show:
            "(a) All monuments found, set, reset, replaced, or removed, describing their kind, size, and location and giving other data relating thereto;
            "(b) Bearing trees, corner accessories or witness monuments, basis of bearings, bearing  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] and length of lines, scale of map, and north arrow;
            "(c) Name and legal description of tract in which the survey is located and ties to adjoining surveys of record;
            "(d) Certificates required by RCW 58.09.080;
            "(e) Any other data necessary for the intelligent interpretation of the various items and locations of the points, lines and areas shown.
            "(2) The record of corner information as required by RCW 58.09.040(2) shall be on a standard form showing:
            "(a) An accurate description and location, in reference to the corner position, of all monuments and accessories found at the corner;
            "(b) An accurate description and location, in reference to the corner position, of all monuments and accessories placed or replaced at the corner;
            "(c) Basis of bearings used to describe or locate such monuments or accessories;
            "(d) Corollary information that may be helpful to relocate or identify the corner position;
            "(e) Certificate required by RCW 58.09.080."  (Emphasis supplied.)
            In your letter you have addressed yourself to the above‑underscored portion of this statute and said:
            "The question is regarding the definition of 'legal description' in this section and the intent thereof.  Some land surveyors believe it means only the general description such as would appear in the title block of a subdivision plat, i.e. 'Portion of      D.L.C. in the     , 1/4 of the      1/4 of Section      T.      R.      W.M.'  Others feel it means a reference to a recorded deed, with recording information shown.  Still others feel that it means a complete written  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] description on the face of the survey plat.  Up to this time very few of the survey plats presented for record have a complete written description on them, which raises the question as to whether they are in compliance with the act."
            Since the term "legal description" is not specially defined in the act, its meaning is thus to be ascertained in accordance with the well-established principle that in the absence of anything in context to the contrary, words in a statute are to be taken as understood in their ordinary and popular sense.  See, e.g., Featherstone v. Dessert, 173 Wash. 264, 22 P.2d 1050 (1933), and cases cited therein.  Applying this rule, we reject a reading of this particular statute which would include any such specialized or technical meanings of this term as are alternatively above referred to in your letter.  Instead, we conclude that the "legal description" required by the statute is simply that description of a tract of real property which is sufficient to meet the requirements of a valid deed of conveyance under the long-standing provisions of RCW 64.04.010; i.e.,

            ". . . a description of land sufficiently definite to locate it without recourse to oral testimony, . . ."2/
             It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Attorney General
Deputy Attorney General
                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***
1/RCW 58.09.010, codifying § 1, chapter 50, supra.
2/See, Bigelow v. Mood, 56 Wn.2d 340, 341, 353 P.2d 429 (1960), and cases cited therein.