Contaminated property

A vehicle, boat, or manufactured home is contaminated if it has been polluted by hazardous chemicals and is unsafe for people to use.

What happens when a vehicle, boat, or manufactured home is declared contaminated

  1. The local health jurisdiction notifies:
    • Notifies the registered and legal owners in writing that the vehicle has been declared contaminated.
    • Notifies us that the vehicle, boat, or manufactured home is contaminated and unfit for use.
  2. After we’re notified, we determine whether the title was issued in Washington State.
    • If the title was issued in Washington state, we:
      1. Cancel the current title.
      2. Issue a new title with a note, or “brand,” showing the vehicle, boat, or manufactured home is contaminated.
      3. Mail the new title to the legal owner.
    • If the title was issued in another state, we place a note, or “brand,” on the vehicle record showing that it has been declared contaminated. This allows us to add a “contaminated” brand if we issue a Washington State title in the future.
  3. If the property has been impounded by local law enforcement, it will remain impounded until it is properly decontaminated. The owner must contact the local health jurisdiction to determine the status of the impounded property.

Your options

If your vehicle, boat, or manufactured home is declared contaminated:

  • You may:
    • Decontaminate the property.
    • Demolish or dispose of the property.
  • You may not:
    • Use or sell the property. It is a gross misdemeanor to advertise for sale or sell a contaminated motor vehicle, boat, or manufactured home.
    • Enter or remove any property that has been declared contaminated.
    • Renew your vehicle tabs or boat registration until the property is decontaminated.

How to decontaminate a vehicle, boat, or manufactured home

  1. Develop a decontamination plan with the local health jurisdiction.
  2. After the decontamination plan has been approved and completed, the local health jurisdiction will give you a Release for Reuse document and a Department of Licensing Decontamination Form.
  3. Take the Release for Reuse document, Decontamination Form, and cash or check for the title fee to a vehicle licensing office and apply for a new title. The new title will be branded “Decontaminated.”
  4. After you receive the new title, you may legally use or sell the vehicle, boat, or manufactured home.

What appears on the title

One of the following notations, or “brands,” will appear permanently on the title and record:

  • Contaminated — This brand means the vehicle, boat, or manufactured home has been declared by the local health jurisdiction to be unfit for use due to contamination by hazardous chemicals.
  • Decontaminated — This brand means the vehicle, boat, or manufactured home was contaminated at one time but has satisfactorily met the standards established by the state Board of Health for absence of hazardous chemicals.

Who to contact

  • If you have questions about property you own:
    • If you already received notification, such as an Unfit and Prohibited from Use document from a local health officer, call the contact person identified on that document.
    • If you haven’t received notification about your property, contact your local health department’s environmental health office.
  • If you suspect a vehicle, boat, or manufactured home has been polluted by hazardous chemicals (i.e., manufacturing of drugs):
    Contact your local law enforcement agency with the following information:
    • Vehicle description
    • Plate number, including state
    • Detailed description of the suspected illegal activity, including the location if known.

Frequently asked questions

As a buyer, how will I know if a vehicle, boat, or manufactured home has been contaminated and then decontaminated?

  • Ask the seller to show you the current title. If it shows the “contaminated” brand but no “decontaminated” brand, the vehicle, boat, or manufactured home cannot be legally sold. If the title shows both brands, it can be sold, and you’ll know the vehicle or vessel was contaminated and later decontaminated.
  • Contact your local health department’s environmental health office.
  • Send us a Vehicle Record Request to find out if a vehicle has a “contaminated” brand on the title.

What should I do if I suspect I’ve purchased a contaminated vehicle, boat, or manufactured home?
Contact your local health department’s environmental health office.

How many vehicle and boats do you anticipate will receive “contaminated” or “decontaminated” brands?

Title brand Vehicles Boats
Contaminated 30-50 per year 5-7 per year
Decontaminated 1-9 per year 1-2 per year

Related laws

Washington Healthcare Finder
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