COVID-19 Update: How We Are Serving and Protecting Our Clients

Title Reports

If you buy or sell property and lenders are involved, you will be required to obtain a title report. A title report insures various elements of the property’s title. It is recommended that you contact a real estate attorney to help you through the issues associated with buying or selling property. An experience real estate attorney can explain your title report and answer all of your questions regarding your title report. At TRUNKENBOLZ | ROHR PLLC, conveniently located in the Spokane Valley, we offer free initial consultations regarding your purchase or sale of property.

Please call to speak with an attorney (509) 928-4100.

There are two main types of title reports. First, there is an abstract of title. An abstract of title is rarely used. Although an abstract of title is very thorough, it is also very expensive. An "abstract of title'" is a written representation, intended to be relied upon by the party who requested it, that gives constructive notice of all recorded conveyances or documents in the chain of title. Second, and most commonly required, are the type of title reports used to commonly transfer both residential and commercial property. These policies explain what they except from coverage. They do not guarantee clear title, but they must except from title what they won’t cover.

For example, as a real estate attorney working all over the State of Washington, Trunkenbolz | Rohr PLLC was contacted by a long time client regarding her purchase of a residence in Spokane Valley, Washington.

On September 13, 2008, the client and her friend (hereinafter Courchaine) entered into a purchase and sale agreement regarding real property in the city of Spokane Valley, Washington.

The property had an existing residence, which was in very poor condition. However, the residence was advertised as having a large lot and suited Courchaine’s purpose of purchasing the property to create a duplex, with each plaintiff occupying one unit.

The size of the lot is 145 feet wide by 135 feet deep.

In mid-September of 2008, Courchaine signed a Real Estate Purchase Agreement and related documents.

On September 29, 2008 the title company, Commonwealth, issued a Commitment for Title Insurance, which failed failed to except from coverage a 75’ Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) easement, recorded September 27, 1945 under recording number 666726A. However, the policy did except a 1905 Modern Electric utility agreement at page two, under special exception 6. The utility agreement was obvious to Courchaine’s real estate agent as there were electrical lines in the back yard that did not interfere with her plans to build a duplex. Courchaine or her agent reviewed the title report; communicated with the Spokane Valley Department of Community Development, purchased a Home Inspection Report, considered each item excepted in the policy and found that the title report disclosed nothing that would make the property unfavorable.

On October 15, 2008, Courchaine purchased the property by Statutory Warranty Deed.

Subsequent to purchasing the property, Courchaine discovered the 75’ BPA easement, which prevented her from using the property for the purposes for which she bought it.

On or about November 4, 2008, Courchaine made a claim against the policy for failing to except the 75’ BPA easement. Since the BPA easement was not excepted, Courchaine claimed that the title company was liable for her damages (the value of what she paid for the property vs. the value of the property with the easement).

Based upon the foregoing, attorney Kennard M. Goodman, the claims adjustor for Commonwealth, wrote to Courchaine on February 4, 2009 and acknowledged coverage of the claim based on the fact that Commonwealth failed to list the 75’ BPA easement as an exception to the title policy.

Shortly thereafter a completely new person, Lisa Leick of Fidelity, directly communicated with Courchaine that “…the persons who previously assisted you with this claim are now either not employed with Fidelity, or are no longer assigned to handle your claim.”

Following that e-mail, another communication from Lisa Leick stated, “Ms. Courchaine, thank you speaking [sic] with me today regarding the claim you made with Commonwealth Title that is now handled by Fidelity National Title.” In each of Ms. Leick’s e-mails, she is identified as the Claims Administrator for Fidelity National Title Group.

Ms. Leick claimed that she was unable to obtain documentation from Commonwealth and requested that Courchaine obtain that information and forward it to her.

On April 27, 2009 Courchaine received a letter stating that her claim was now being denied. Said letter was, in the opinion of the Commonwealth claims adjustor Kennard Goodman “wrong” and if he was teaching a class and that was the final exam, he would give Ms. Leick a D or F.

By May of 2009, Commonwealth had failed to issue the Owner’s Title Insurance Policy. However, several months later, an owner’s policy dated October 17, 2008 policy number B68-100126 (the “policy”) was issued. The policy did not contain an exception for the 75’ BPA easement, recorded September 27, 1945 under recording number 666726A.

Plaintiff sued Commonwealth and Fidelity for breach of contract and violation of the Consumer Protection Act.

The trial court ruled that Commonwealth had breached its contract with Courchaine and that Fidelity breached the contract and violated the Consumer Protection act.

Commonwealth and Fidelity appealed the trial court’s ruling.

The Court of Appeals ruled that Commonwealth had breached its contract with Courchaine and Fidelity violated the Consumer Protection Act and was liable for damages, attorney fees and the cost of appeal.

For a full discussion of this case see: Courchaine v. Commonwealth, 296 P. 3d 913 (2012).

TRUNKENBOLZ | ROHR PLLC was proud to represent Ms. Courchaine and obtain justice for her.

Call us for your free initial consultation (509) 928-4100.