We perform a title search for every refinance or purchase closing. There was a time when someone searching titles could get all the needed information at the courthouse. That time has passed. Deeds, mortgages, and most liens are still recorded in the real estate records at the courthouse, but several other items also need to be checked before closing. Everyone knows to check property taxes, but what about other property charges?
Many municipalities in Georgia have ordinances that create liens on the property for unpaid water bills. There is no public index or record of water bills to search. Each county or city providing water service has its own process for getting the water bill. The City of Atlanta charges $10 per property to provide a water bill and accepts requests on-line. Dekalb County does not charge anything and accepts requests through e-mail.
OCGA § 36-60-17 was amended in 2016 to allow water-provider to charge up to $10 to provide water bill information. The same Code states that water-providers have 10 business days to provide a bill and payoff amount. Most providers provide the statement much quicker. The payoff amount is good for thirty days and once paid, extinguishes any lien rights. In order for a water bill to be a lien on residential property, the water charges must be incurred by the property owner.
Georgia Department of Revenue liens are another lien that is not recorded at the courthouse anymore. Effective January 1, 2018, the Georgia Department of Revenue has a separate statewide index for its liens that is only available on-line. The lien index can be accessed through the GSCCCA at: http://search.gsccca.org/LienSearch/StateTaxLienSearch.aspx
or through the Department of Revenue’s web site at: https://gtc.dor.ga.gov/_/#2
It was less time consuming and easier to check everything at the courthouse, but those days are over. After searching the courthouse records, we must get property taxes, request water bills, and search for Georgia Department of Revenue liens on-line.