By Brian F. Jenabzadeh, Esq.
In Georgia, a tax deed purchaser has a defeasible fee-simple interest in the property  and it does not give the tax deed purchaser the exclusive rights to possess the property.  Tax deeds in Georgia are governed by title 48 of the Georgia Code. Once the tax deed is sold on the court-house steps, the interest “ripens” into a fee-simple interest subject to redemption by the property interest holders. If the owner or a creditor wishes to redeem the property during the first year, they must tender the original amount of the purchase price of the tax deed along with a twenty percent (20%) premium. For very year afterwards, the delinquent taxpayer must pay an extra ten percent (10%).
However, when the property is not redeemed, the purchaser can initiate foreclosure proceedings. This process, known as the barment procedure, involves a complicated and detail-oriented process of sending notices to the right parties. Once the notices are sent, the tax deed purchaser initiates a Quiet Title action to receive a clear title. Most title companies and closing attorneys require the properties sold at a tax sale to undergo a Quiet Title action before issuing marketable title to the new buyer. If you are looking to clear the title on your tax deed, our attorneys can initiate the foreclosure process and begin the Quiet Title action.
Below are several frequently asked questions by purchasers of Georgia tax deeds and property owners:
Ok, so I bought the tax deed, can I start renovating or improving the property?
No. As stated above, because the tax deed is a defeasible fee-simple interest, the tax deed purchaser will not have a vested fee-simple interest until the statutory notices have been sent out. This process involves legal notices being sent out and should be done by a professional or a lawyer who has experience. No investor should be investing a money into a house without first seeking the advice of an attorney. If you or someone you know is in this situation, feel free to call the firm for a free consult.
Do I still owe the HOA dues for a property that I have purchased a tax deed on?
If you are the purchaser of a tax deed, the short answer is it depends. It is highly recommended to consult an attorney prior to purchasing a tax deed. Factors that are relevant include (1) when the HOA dues were accrued, and (2) the issue date of the tax deed.
I am the original owner of a property that was sold at a tax sale. What should I do?
If a property that you own or have an interest in has been sold, you should get in contact with an attorney right away as your interest in the property is at stake. If the property has been sold, it’s important to seek out the purchaser’s contact information right away. Don’t wait before it’s too late to redeem your property.
Do I owe the homeowner’s association (“HOA”) dues on a property that I recently purchased in the tax sale?
The short answer is yes if the property is governed by an HOA. However, be sure to consult with an attorney at Coleman Legal Group, LLC to decide which years are owed. The Georgia’s Court of Appeals has ruled specifically on this issue.  In Croft v. Fairfield Plantation Prop. Owners Assoc., Inc., the tax deed holder made the argument that by virtue of purchasing the property through a tax sale, he was not a member of the association and therefore was not required to pay any dues. However, the Court of Appeals disagreed with Croft and ruled that it would be inequitable for Croft to reap the benefits of an HOA without paying the dues. If you have purchased a property in a community, be sure to get the governing documents as your rights may be affected. These documents put owners on notice that their properties are in fact governed by the rules and regulations set out in it.
If the taxes are due on the property after the tax sale, can the Georgia tax commissioner make a claim on the excess funds?
No, in Iglesia Del Dios Vivo Columna Y Apoyo De La Verdad La Luz Del Mundo, Inc. v. Downing, 321 Ga.App. 778, (Ga. App. 2013), Georgia’s Court of Appeals ruled that “O.C.G.A. § 48–5–9 does not authorize charging Appellant, as defendant in fi. fa., with the taxes that accrued on the Property after the tax sale during the redemption period…” Id. at 747. Accordingly, if your property has been sold at a tax sale, make sure your excess funds are properly calculated.
 Hinkel, Pindar’s Georgia Real Estate Law, § 4-49 (5th ed.)
 McDonald v. Wimpy, 206 Ga. 270, 273, 56 S.E.2d 524 (1949)
 Croft v. Fairfield Plantation Prop. Owners Assoc., Inc., No. A05A1029
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The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.