Mayor Young Announces Process to Resume Real Property Transactions in Baltimore City
Monday May 20th, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BALTIMORE, MD. — Under the direction of Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, the City of Baltimore has developed a manual work around that will allow real estate transactions to proceed during the City's technology outage.
The plan will take effect Monday, May 20. To accommodate citizens, the Municipal building will operate from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday for the week.
“All of our agencies are working together, around the clock, to restore connectivity and to minimize any inconveniences to the general public” Mayor Young said. “My administration worked closely with industry experts and developed a workaround that will allow real estate transactions to continue.”
This workaround approach was developed to respond to technical problems created by the ransomware attack identified by the city on May 7, 2019. As a result, property transactions were temporarily halted because the city’s property billing data was affected, reducing the city’s capacity to issue accurate lien certificates or collect on bills before a transaction closed.
The process of recording deeds in the Baltimore City Land Records requires that a lien certificate be issued by Baltimore City’s Bureau of Revenue Collections. Lien certificates report on the status of any unpaid taxes, assessments and other municipal charges that produce a lien on real property.
Based on the lien certificate, payment for open liens is collected at the time of recording a deed, and the City stamps the deed that such payment has been made. The May 7, 2019 ransomware attack on the City’s computer systems left the City unable to access financial records in order to generate a lien certificate, putting a halt on the city’s real estate transactions.
The workaround that was developed by the City includes the following steps:
- Baltimore City will accept requests for lien certificates in person at the Abel Wolman Municipal Building at 200 N. Holliday Street, in Room 1. All transactions must be made in-person.
- Any seller or transferor of a property will be required to sign a form Affidavit for Payment of Outstanding Charges. The Affidavit will re-affirm the transferor’s obligation to pay any outstanding charges that would otherwise appear on a lien certificate together with a promise to pay such charges within ten days of receipt of an invoice from the City.
- While the mainframe is inaccessible, the city will issue lien certificates showing zero liens and including a reference to the form Affidavit. This will remove any responsibility for paying any property debts or settling the liens from the new owner of the property. That responsibility will rest solely on the transferor.
- At the time of recording, the responsible parties should pay all the open liens of which they are aware by check or money order.
- The lien certificate, with the Affidavit attached, should be hand-delivered to Room 1B of the Abel Wolman Building at 200 N. Holliday Street.
This solution to the pause in real estate transactions essentially removes any risk stemming from existing liens from the new owner of the property, allowing title insurance companies to continue with their normal course of business in Baltimore. As a result, the City's real estate transaction process will be jump-started on Monday.
“The bottom line is that if you’re trying to buy a home in Baltimore or purchase a commercial property, you can show up on Monday and get your Lien Certificate,” Mayor Young said. “It’s going to take a few extra steps, but we should be up and running right away.”
The recording process will continue in the usual manner, including the payment of all applicable recordation and transfer taxes. The City will reserve the right to delay recording in situations where the risk of non-payment is determined to be unreasonable.
This process will protect a bona fide purchaser, the lender and their title insurer. In accordance with Article 28, Section 2-3(b) of the Baltimore City Code, upon the issuance of a lien certificate reporting no present liens, the City shall be barred from asserting any claim thereafter for and on account of any charge or assessment against the subject property. At the same time, the City preserves its right to collect such charges from the transferor as soon as those charges can be determined.