Go to jail for using public documents to contact owners?

6 Replies

I contacted the Okanogan County Treasurer's Office (Washington State) and asked how I would be able to obtain a list of parcels/owners that were 3 years behind on their taxes. I figure if they're not paying their taxes then there's a good chance they will want to sell. There are public disclosure laws that allow for these documents (Washington has extensive public disclosure laws allowing for open and free access of public documents). They said yes (have to fill out a request), but this is what she said:

ATTENTION: RCW 63.29.350 - AMENDED 2010 "FINDERS FEE'S".

"Protects the pocketbooks of families who have lost their homes due to an inability to pay their property taxes. The NEW LAW, regulates firms and individuals who contact owners of foreclosed properties offering to obtain money remaining after the auction on their behalf. The bill places a 5% cap on such finders's fees, the same amount allowed for other kinds of unclaimed funds." Any person violating this sections is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than the amount of the fee or charge he has sought or received or contracted for, and not more than ten times such amount, or imprisioned for not more than 30 days or both.

RCW 42.56.070(9)

Requests for Public Information Limitation on Use for Commerical Purposes

Washington State law, RCW 42.56.070(9), prohibits the use of lists of individuals for commercial purposes. "Commercial purposes" means that the person requesting the record intends the list will be used to communicate with the individuals named in the record for the purpose of facilitating profit-expecting activity.

Ok, I'm not going for finder's fees so I don't think that section is applicable.

Could anyone shed some light on the second section? If I contact an owner from this list with the intent to buy their house and then sell their house, am I breaking the law?

Is the transaction once removed, meaning I personally want to buy the house (I'm not making money off of the purchase of the house, but the remodeling done). Could they seriously prosecute me for this? Has anyone heard of this?

Originally posted by @Michael Ablan :

@Fred Engh   Very interesting.  I'd take this to a local lawyer and get their opinion. 

 this is west coast lawyer is no help thats state law.  google Joe Kaiser and tax overages.. its an interesting read.  

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :

@Steve Vaughan is in Washington state...he might know

 Russ  google Joe Kaiser tax overages state of WA.. he was a maniac and the state of WA AG and him went toe to toe bare knuckled.

and you can see the state won.. they dont like the overage game.. and many states and counties have followed suit.. either by withholding information or limiting those who try to grab overages to 10% finders fee.. when it was common to get 50% or more.

Kaiser and a few others sold HOW TO  program called Hooked on Overages.. another thing that showed how easy it was and how much money U could make not really describing how dog gone tough it is.. 

@Jay Hinrichs I read up on the Joe Kaiser business model. It was an interesting read (I'm always game to learn more). I think he ran afoul of the law by promising to save houses. What he was really doing was essentially a payday loan against the foreclosure overage (that's not what I'm aiming to do). It's akin to the Oasis Financing (they advance money for slamdunk lawsuits at exorbitant interest rates).

It sounds like the RCW 62.29.350 Finders Fee's law was made specifically because of him.

My goal is to find leads from back taxes and close a deal with an owner, no promise of a foreclosure bailout. I just want to buy before the county forecloses. At the end of June they hit owners with an $800 fee and then do the auction in December (there were about 2 dozen properties, no houses at the last auction). 

People receive the overage I believe without having to do any paperwork. The county (here at least) send them a notification of the sales amount (then they deduct the back taxes, interest, late fees and the $800 foreclosure fee). 

Thanks for the mention @Russell Brazil.

I kinda used to DM tax delinquents but not heavily. In the 3 counties I used to follow, it's right there on the treasurer's website. No need to request a list.  By Oct or Nov the names and parcel #s going up for 3yr back taxes are posted for the December auction.

I would send a generic postcard to the ones that actually had improvements on it that appeared to have equity. Never bought a deal but did get two people's auction stayed by the treasurer. She was laughing at how investors thought they were buying lien-free like advertised in the late night infomercials or something. LOL