Tag: tax sale

Excess Tax Sale Funds in Georgia

Following up on a previous blog regarding whether redeeming parties get priority to claim excess tax sale funds (they don’t), this blog discusses the process of disbursing excess funds following a tax sale.

Under Georgia law, a tax commissioner holds excess funds generated by a tax sale in a fiduciary capacity. Alexander Investment Group v. Jarvis, 263 Ga. 489, 491-492 (1993). Georgia statutory law, in O.C.G.A. § 48-4-5, describes the process of disbursing excess tax sale funds.

If there are any excess funds after paying taxes, costs, and all expenses, within 30 days of the tax sale, written notice is sent by first-class U.S. Mail to the following parties: (1) the owner of the property (delinquent taxpayer), (2) security deed holder, and (3) parties with a properly recorded interest in the property.

The notice of excess tax funds shall describe the land sold, the date sold, the name and address of the tax sale purchaser, the total sale price, and the amount of excess funds. The notice shall also state that the excess funds are available for distribution to the owner or interest holders in the order of priority in which their interests exist on the public record.

If excess funds are unclaimed or a dispute arises regarding who’s entitled to the excess funds, the tax commissioner or sheriff is entitled to deposit the funds into the registry of the superior court so that the superior court can disburse the funds.

If the excess funds remain unclaimed for five years, the funds may be retained. After this time, only a court order from an interpleader action filed in the county where the tax sale occurred, by the claimant for the funds, shall serve as justification for release of the funds.

 

Georgia Tax Deed Purchasers Are Responsible for Paying Association Dues

Under Georgia law, a tax deed purchaser is obligated to pay homeowners’ association assessments that come due after the tax sale. See Croft v. Fairfield Plantation Property Owners Assn., 276 Ga. App. 311, 314 (2005). This includes the period before the purchaser can foreclose on the right of redemption. Georgia courts have held that a tax deed purchaser acquires sufficient title to trigger automatic membership in the association. The rationale is that assessments and fees paid to a homeowners’ associations benefit a tax deed purchaser.

The good news for tax deed holders is that Georgia courts allow tax deed holders to include condominium association assessments paid as part of the redemption price. Harvest Assets, LLC v. Northlake Manor Condo. Assn., 340 Ga. App. 237 (2017).

Georgia Tax Deeds: Excess Tax-Sale Funds and Super Liens

There was an important shift in Georgia tax deed law last year. The Georgia Supreme Court, in DLT List, LLC vs. M7even, 301 Ga. 131 (2017), decided that a party who redeems a tax deed is not automatically first in line to receive excess tax-sale funds following a tax sale.

The facts of DLT List are straightforward: a property was auctioned at a tax sale and sold for $110,000. The delinquent taxes were $5,000, so there were $105,000 in excess tax-sale funds. The delinquent taxpayer applied to the tax commissioner to receive the excess funds–there were no other claims to the funds. Several months later, a third-party, who held a lien against another property owned by the delinquent taxpayer, redeemed. The redeeming party applied for the excess tax-sale funds. The question became who was entitled to the excess tax-sale proceeds.

Under existing law in Georgia, a redeeming party, simply by virtue of redeeming, is entitled to first position against excess tax-sale funds. This arose out of an often-cited case, National Tax Funding vs. Harpagon, 277 Ga. 41 (2003), which involved competing lien holders in the context of a tax sale. Harpagon held that following a tax sale, a competing lien holder had two choices: (1) claim the excess tax-sale funds, or (2) redeem the property. Importantly, if a competing lien holder chose to redeem, the redemption converted the competing lien holder’s claim into a first-position lien against the property. This is known as a “super lien” and allows a redeeming party to leapfrog over higher priority creditors. A super lien has many benefits for tax sale investors.

Redeeming parties, relying on the super lien language in Harpagon, began claiming their super lien status not only gave them a first-position lien against the property, but also entitled them to the excess tax-sale funds following redemption. These claims were affirmed by the courts in cases like Wester v. United Capital Financial of Atlanta, LLC, 282 Ga. App. 392 (2006).

Fast forward to 2017.  In DLT List, LLC vs. M7even, the Georgia Supreme Court revisited the issue of excess tax-sale funds and found that super liens attach only to real estate, not to personal property. Therefore, because excess tax-sale funds are personal property, super liens don’t attach to excess tax-sale funds. Thus, redeeming parties aren’t entitled to any preference with regard to excess tax-sale funds. By so deciding, the Supreme Court distinguished Harpagon and overruled cases like Wester.

While this ruling isn’t likely to slow down the tax deed business in Georgia, as a real estate investor, it’s something to be aware of.