Q: My son has a house in Fulton County, Georgia, which he purchased on December 19, 2003.
He is receiving tax bills for 2003 which in my opinion should go to the previous owner.
We are unable to reach Fulton County tax office (they don’t return calls or respond to written communication). What would you suggest to be the best course of action to resolve this? My son has now relocated to Florida and wants to get this property listed as quickly as possible.
A: If you bought your home at the end of 2003, your son and his seller should have worked out who owed what and to whom at the closing.
If the taxes were settled at the closing and the 2003 real estate taxes were to have been paid at or prior to the closing, the title company that handled the closing should have insured your son’s title as having the real estate taxes fully paid. The title company now should be responsible for the payment of those taxes if they either made a mistake or failed to pay the taxes from the monies from the closing.
If your son did not get title insurance and the closing agent made a mistake, you may be able to have the closing agent fix the mistake. If the closing agent did not make a mistake and your son failed to get money for taxes owed by the seller, your son may have to foot the bill.
Your son will have to review the paperwork from the closing to see who owed what and who should have paid the tax bills. Once he has this information, he can determine how to proceed.
Please have your son discuss the matter with a real estate attorney who has experience working with the Fulton County tax office.
The attorney should take a look at the contract your son used to purchase the property. The contract for purchase should have contained a provision whereby the tax bill (which goes to the owner of the house, not the previous owner) would be split based on what the buyer and seller expected the final tax bill would be.
Typically, the seller puts money into escrow to cover any taxes owed. Then, the buyer uses the cash to pay the tax bill.
Did this happen in your son’s case? Perhaps he was not aware that this is how taxes are often handled. Please consult with a real estate attorney who can look at his documents and explain to him what has happened.
Feb. 18, 2005.