(1) It is in the public interest for the department to recover remedial action costs incurred in discharging its responsibility under this chapter, as these recovered funds can then be applied to the cleanup of other facilities. Thus, in addition to other cost-recovery mechanisms provided under this chapter, this section is intended to facilitate the recovery of state funds spent on remedial actions by providing the department with lien authority. This will also prevent a facility owner or mortgagee from gaining a financial windfall from increased land value resulting from department-conducted remedial actions at the expense of the state taxpayers.
(2) If the state of Washington incurs remedial action costs relating to a remedial action of real property, and those remedial action costs are unrecovered by the state of Washington, the department may file a lien against that real property.
(a) Except as provided in (c) of this subsection, liens filed under this section shall have priority in rank over all other privileges, liens, monetary encumbrances, or other security interests affecting the real property, whenever incurred, filed, or recorded, except for the following liens:
(i) Local and special district property tax assessments; and
(ii) Mortgage liens recorded before liens or notices of intent to conduct remedial actions are recorded under this section.
(b) Liens filed pursuant to (a) and (c) of this subsection shall not exceed the remedial action costs incurred by the state.
(c)(i) If the real property for which the department has incurred remedial action costs is abandoned, the department may choose to limit the amount of the lien to the increase in the fair market value of the real property that is attributable to a remedial action conducted by the department. The increase in fair market value shall be determined by subtracting the county assessor's value of the real property for the most recent year prior to remedial action being initiated from the value of the real property after remedial action. The value of the real property after remedial action shall be determined by the bona fide purchase price of the real property or by a real estate appraiser retained by the department. Liens limited in this way have priority in rank over all other privileges, liens, monetary encumbrances, or other security interests affecting the real property, whenever incurred, filed, or recorded.
(ii) For the purposes of this subsection, "abandoned" means there has not been significant business activity on the real property for three years or property taxes owed on the real property are three years in arrears prior to the department incurring costs attributable to this lien.
(d) The department shall, when notifying potentially liable persons of their potential liability under RCW 70.105D.040, include a notice stating that if the department incurs remedial action costs relating to the remediation of real property and the costs are not recovered by the department, the department may file a lien against that real property under this section.
(e) Except for emergency remedial actions, the department must provide notice to the following persons before initiating remedial actions conducted by persons under contract to the department on real property on which a lien may be filed under this section:
(i) The real property owner;
(iii) Lienholders of record;
(iv) Persons known to the department to be conducting remedial actions at the facility at the time of such notice; and
(v) Persons known to the department to be under contract to conduct remedial actions at the facility at the time of such notice.
For emergency remedial actions, this notice shall be provided within thirty days after initiation of the emergency remedial actions.
(f) The department may record a copy of the notice in (e) of this subsection, along with a legal description of the property on which the remedial action will take place, with the county auditor in the county where the real property is located. If the department subsequently files a lien, the effective date of the lien will be the date this notice was recorded.
(3) Before filing a lien under this section, the department shall give the owner of real property on which the lien is to be filed and mortgagees and lienholders of record a notice of its intent to file a lien:
(a) The notice required under this subsection (3) must be sent by certified mail to the real property owner and mortgagees of record at the addresses listed in the recorded documents. If the real property owner is unknown or if a mailed notice is returned as undeliverable, the department shall provide notice by posting a legal notice in the newspaper of largest circulation in the county [in which] the site is located. The notice shall provide:
(i) A statement of the purpose of the lien;
(ii) A brief description of the real property to be affected by the lien;
(iii) A statement of the remedial action costs incurred by the state related to the real property affected by the lien;
(iv) A brief statement of facts showing probable cause that the real property is the subject of the remedial action costs incurred by the department; and
(v) The time period following service or other notice during which any recipient of the notice whose legal rights may be affected by the lien may comment on the notice.
(b) Any comments on the notice must be received by the department on or before thirty days following service or other provision of the notice of intent to file a lien.
(c) If no comments are received by the department, the lien may be filed on the real property immediately.
(d) If the department receives any comments on the lien, the department shall determine if there is probable cause for filing the certificate of lien. If the department determines there is probable cause, the department may file the lien. Any further challenge to the lien may only occur at the times specified under RCW 70.105D.060.
(e) If the department has reason to believe that exigent circumstances require the filing of a lien prior to giving notice under this subsection (3), or prior to the expiration of the time period for comments, the department may file the lien immediately. For the purposes of this subsection (3), exigent circumstances include, but are not limited to, an imminent bankruptcy filing by the real property owner, or the imminent transfer or sale of the real property subject to lien by the real property owner, or both.
(4) A lien filed under this section is effective when a statement of lien is filed with the county auditor in the county where the real property is located. The statement of lien must include a description of the real property subject to lien and the amount of the lien.
(5) Unless the department determines it is in the public interest to remove the lien, the lien continues until the liability for the remedial action costs have been satisfied through sale of the real property, foreclosure, or other means agreed to by the department. Any action for foreclosure of the lien shall be brought by the attorney general in a civil action in the court having jurisdiction and in the manner prescribed for the judicial foreclosure of a mortgage.
(6)(a) This section does not apply to real property owned by a local government or special purpose district or real property used solely for residential purposes and consisting of four residential units or less at the time the lien is recorded. This limitation does not apply to illegal drug manufacturing and storage sites under chapter 64.44 RCW.
(b) If the real property owner has consented to the department filing a lien on the real property, then only subsection (3)(a)(i) through (iii) of this section requiring notice to mortgagees and lienholders of record apply.
[2005 c 211 § 1.]