Tag: excess tax sale funds

Excess tax sale funds for judgment holders

While we have discussed excess tax sale cases before, recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals addressed who may claim excess tax sale funds. In that case, the Court held that judgment holder was not an “interested” party and therefore not entitled to tax sale funds following a Fulton County tax sale.

Here, the claimant held a judgment (the ultimate litigant was a successor assignee of the judgment) against a lender who held a mortgage against the property. The judgment holder argued that following the tax sale, the excess tax sale funds became personal property belonging to the mortgage holder—and therefore (somehow) the mortgage holder is entitled to a lien against such personal property (i.e, the tax sale proceeds).

In analyzing these claims, the Court looked to O.C.G.A. § 48-4-5(a), which states:

[i]f there are any excess funds . . . the officer selling the property shall give written notice of such excess funds to the record owner of the property at the time of the tax sale and to the record owner of each security deed affecting the property and to all other parties having any recorded equity interest or claim in such property at the time of the tax sale.

The subsection that follows provides that “[s]uch excess funds shall be distributed by the superior court to the intended parties, including the owner, as their interests appear and in the order of priority in which their interests exist.” O.C.G.A. § 48-4-5(b).

Ultimately, this turned out to be an easy decision because the claimant simply did not have any interest in the property by virtue of holding a judgment against a party that may have had an interest. Specifically, because the judgment was against a corporate entity, and not the property that had been sold, and because the judgment lien was against a predecessor in interest to a grantee of a security deed, the claimant was not an “interested party” under OCGA § 48-4-5 and could not receive excess funds under the statute.

The Actual Tax Sale in Georgia

As a general rule, tax sales are held on the first Tuesday of the month. However, not every county has a tax sale every month. Generally, the tax sales are conducted between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm  on the steps of the county courthouse. If the first Tuesday of the month falls on a legal holiday, the sale is held the next day, Wednesday.

The opening bid for a particular property is the amount of tax due, plus penalties, interest, fi. fa. cost, levy cost, administrative levy fee, certified mail cost, advertising cost, and tax deed recording fees. The property is sold to the highest bidder.

Immediately following the conclusion of the tax sale all purchasers must pay in full the amount bid at the auction. Payment must be in the form of cash, certified check, or cashier’s check. Normally, the purchaser to sign a statement attesting to the fact that certain property was purchased for a certain price. After all payments are processed, the count will provide a Tax Deed and the Real Estate Transfer Tax form.

According to O.C.G.A. § 9-13-170, any person who becomes the purchaser of any real or personal property at any sale made at public outcry who fails or refuses to comply with the terms of the sale when requested to do so, shall be liable for the amount of the purchase money. It shall be the county’s option either to proceed against the purchaser for the full amount of the purchase money or to resell the real or personal property and then proceed against the first purchaser for any deficiency arising from the sale.

Another Georgia Excess Tax Sale Funds Case

Republic Title Co. v. Freeport Title & Guar., Inc., A19A0274 (May. 29, 2019) concerns entitlement to excess funds remaining following a tax sale pursuant to OCGA § 48-3-3. We’ve discussed this in previous blogs. There isn’t much new here but the case does reinforce some tax deed principles of interest. In this case, the property owner at the time of the tax sale sought to collect excess tax sale proceeds following the tax sale. Also following the tax sale, a security deed holder on the property similarly sought the excess tax funds.

The owner filed a lawsuit seeking the excess tax funds, and, in the same lawsuit, sought to quiet the security deed holder’s lien as a cloud on title. The argument was the loan had matured for more than seven years and therefore wasn’t enforceable at the time of the tax sale. In Georgia, under O.C.G.A. § 44-14-80, title to real property conveyed to secure a debt or debts revert to the grantor the expiration of seven years from the maturity of the debt or debts or the maturity of the last installment thereof as stated or fixed in the record of the conveyance (this is the general rule).

Following the recommendation issued by a special master appointed in the case, the trial court ruled in favor of the owner; awarding the owner the excess tax funds and quieting title against the security deed holder. The Georgia Court of Appeals agreed. The Georgia Court of Appeals rejected the security deed holder’s argument that the special master didn’t have authority to issue a ruling on excess funds. And the security deed holder’s argument that the property owner lacked standing to bring a quiet title was likewise disregarded. Although the quiet title was filed by the owner after the tax sale, it was filed within the time period in which the owner had a right to redeem the property. Thus, the owner’s right to redeem was enough to give the owner standing to quiet title against the security deed holder.

If you have any questions regarding tax deeds, please call us at 404-382-9994.

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.