In Georgia, how long do you have to tender the statutory redemption amount following a tax sale and how much do you have to pay?

OCGA § 48-4-42 says: “The amount required to be paid for redemption of property from any sale for taxes . . . shall . . . be the amount paid for the property at the tax sale . . . plus a premium of 20 percent of the amount for the first year or fraction of a year which has elapsed between the date of the sale and the date on which the redemption payment is made and 10 percent for each year or fraction of a year thereafter.”

OCGA § 48-4-40 says the tax deed purchaser may terminate the right to redeem one year after the tax sale by sending out notices to any interested parties. The notice regarding the tax deed must include a deadline to redeem.  

It sounds simple enough, but what if the parties can’t agree on an amount? And what if a party redeems within the deadline by mistakenly pays less than the full redemption amount required under the statute? This situation arose in D&D Family Properties, LLC v. Wright, A20A1339 (November 3, 2020).

In Wright, the tax sale took place on July 5, 2017. The Court of Appeals found that the deadline starts running on the date of the tax sale. Thus, the deadline to redeem fell on July 4 of the following year. The redeeming party submitted $7,600 on July 5 ($6,000 for the amount paid at the tax sale plus the 20% premium). It did this thinking the one-year deadline ran on July 5. Or because July 4 was a holiday, the deadline rolled over to the next business day.

The Court of Appeals disagreed. It ruled that by July 5, the redeeming party owed an additional 10%. Thus, the $7,600 was inadequate, and the redeeming party could not redeem.

The takeaway is the Court of Appeals is willing to strictly enforce the statutes regarding tax sales.

Easements by Adverse Possession or Prescription

Georgia law allows a party to obtain a private way (or easement) over the land of another through a process known as prescription (also sometimes called adverse possession). See OCGA Section 49-4-40 et seq. This requires seven years’ uninterrupted use through improved lands. To show prescription, however, the party seeking an easement must show (1) uninterrupted use of the alleged private way, (2) that the private way is no more than twenty feet wide, (3) that he or she has kept the private way in repair, (4) and that the use was public, continuous, exclusive, peaceable, and accompanied by a claim of right. Finally, the use of the alleged easement must be adverse. This means that if the owner of the property gave permission to use the property, there cannot be adverse possession.

To obtain an easement over another’s land, the party seeking an easement must prove each of the above elements. All things being equal, the courts will favor the property owner over the party claiming an easement. This makes sense. Obtaining a legal right to go over someone else’s property should not be easy. On the other hand, a property owner should have some responsibility to know how his or her property is being used and to prevent unauthorized use.

A recent Georgia Court of Appeals case decided this issue. In Wilkes 581 Farms, LLC v. McAvoy, A20A1225 (September 18, 2020), a party claimed an easement over a road belonging owned by another party. The court ruled against an easement over the road because the property owner had given permission to use the road. Thus, the claim was not adverse. In other words, if a property owner gives permission, there cannot be adverse possession or prescription.

Secondarily, the court ruled that the party seeking an easement lost because he could not show his the use of the road was exclusive. Instead, the evidence showed that others used the road.

If you have an easement question or dispute, please call us at 404-382-9994.

Uninsured Motorist Insurance in Georgia: Notice

First and foremost, you should buy uninsured motorist insurance! This type of insurance covers situations in which you are injured by driver who has no insurance or minimal insurance. This is an optional coverage, which everyone should get because it is relatively inexpensive and there are many uninsured and underinsured drivers out there.

If you have (hopefully) purchased uninsured motorist coverage, how quickly do you need to notify your insurance carrier? According to a recent case, as soon as possible. In Hyde v. State Farm, A20A1221 (2020), a negligent driver injured the claimant on August 18, 2016. An attorney notified the claimant’s employer on December 6, 2016, who in turn notified State Farm on December 7, 2016. However, the attorney did not directly notify State Farm until much later.

Because the attorney addressed the December 7, 2016 letter to the employer, the Court of Appeals ruled that State Farm did not receive notice. Moreover, the Court of Appeals ruled that under the State Farm insurance policy, notice is required “as soon as reasonably possible after the injured insured is first examined or treated for the injury.” Here, the notice was not as soon as reasonably possible. Finally, the Court of Appeals ruled that the delay in providing notice was not justified.

At our office, our standard procedure is to notify the at-fault driver’s insurance company and your insurance company as soon as possible. This avoids any chance of losing your right to recover due to late notice. Please call us at 404-382-9991 if you are in a car accident and need an attorney. We will come to you if you do not have a ride.

Were you injured or a crime victim on someone else’s property?

an example of an invitee

If you slip and fall or a rape victim on someone else’s property, the reason why you are on the property matters. Whether you can recover for your injuries often turns on your relationship with the property owner. The law has fancy words to describe the different types of relationships, which we cover below.

The first type of relationship, that of a trespasser, is easy to understand. A trespasser is someone who goes onto someone else’s property without invitation or permission. An example is if someone breaks into your house. If the trespasser gets hurt, you are responsible only if you intentionally tried to hurt the trespasser. This becomes relevant in a landlord-tenant situation. If a lease does not identify a tenant, arguably the tenant is a trespasser and will have a tough claim against the landlord. However, this can be overcome if the landlord knew the tenant was living on the property but took no action.

The next step up is a licensee. This is a person invited onto the property as a social guest but who does not provide a benefit to the owner. A licensee is on the property only for his own convenience. O.C.G.A. § 51-3-2. So, if you invite a friend to your house, your friend is an invitee. If a licensee is injured, the property owner must exercise reasonable care to prevent injury.

Finally, there is what is known as an invitee. An invitee is a person who is invited and provides benefit to the owner. An example is if you go to Publix to buy groceries. You have been invited by the Publix onto the property and are benefiting Publix by buying groceries. With regard to an invitee, a property owner must exercise ordinary care to keep the property safe. This is a higher standard than a licensee. And requires the owner to inspect its property to make sure it is safe for its customers.

If you are injured or are a crime victim on someone else’s property, please call us. Our number is (404) 382-9991.

Georgia Crime Victims Assistance

If you are a crime victim, in addition to suing the person who committed the crime, Georgia offers up to $25,000 in crime victim assistance. This compensation program covers such things as medical bills, funeral expenses, mental health counseling, and loss of income or support. This is a significant program. For example, in 2018, Georgia awarded almost $20 million to 14,246 crime victims in Georgia’s 159 counties.

The Georgia legislature explained the basis for program:

. . . many innocent persons suffer personal physical injury, serious mental or emotional trauma, severe financial hardship, or death as a result of criminal acts or attempted criminal acts. The General Assembly finds and determines that there is a need for assistance for such victims of crimes. Accordingly, it is the General Assembly’s intent that under certain circumstances, aid, care, and assistance be provided by the state for such victims of crimes. O.C.G.A. § 17-15-1.

To get compensation, you must file an application with the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program. To qualify, you must be physically injured or witness a violent crime OR suffer serious mental trauma as a result of being threatened or present during a violent crime OR trying to help a crime victim OR you are a parent of someone killed or injured as a result of violent crime OR depended on someone for financial support who was killed during a violent crime OR having been paying bills related to the crime.

The most common crimes eligible for compensation are child molestation, rape, domestic violence, homicide, hit-and-run, serious injury by vehicle, DUI crashes, assault/battery, and robbery.

Please be aware that you must meet some initial guidelines: you must have reported the crime within 72 hours and must file an applications with the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program within three years of the crime. These are the general rules but there are exceptions for minors and unusual circumstances.

If you qualify, you will be entitled to recover to $25,000 per victim per incident. The $25,000 includes medical expenses up to $15,000, funeral expenses up to $6,000, counseling expenses up to $3,000, lost wages expenses up to $10,000, and loss of support expenses up to $10,000.

If you are the victim of a crime, please contact Gomez & Golomb 404-382-9994. We offer a free consultation to review and explain your options to get compensated for your injuries.