Commissioners talk ‘free and clear’ verbiage at Monday’s work session

So what exactly does “free and clear” mean?

When it comes to the county’s judicial sale, it requires a healthy dose of “buyer beware.”

Tax Claim Director Phil Gilbert brought the issue to the Commissioner’s work session on Monday.

Gilbert explained that research into liens for the May judicial sale is completed in January.

Any liens placed against properties on the list between that research in the sale? They remain in effect.

The issue presented itself when someone purchased a property at sale only to find an $8,000 lien on the property. Gilbert proposed having additional research — which would catch liens placed in that interim time period — completed in the weeks immediately prior to the sale, indicating that it would cost approximately $2,000 for the sale coming up in May.

Should that additional research find additional liens, Gilbert then asked whether they would need to pull the property from the sale or notify the bidders of the sale of the recently discovered lien.

Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said that they want to encourages purchases at the sales and supported obtaining as much information as possible.

Gilbert noted, though, that the responsibility is on the purchaser to research the property.

“My preference is to not pull the properties,” Eggleston said.

Commissioner Cindy Morrison asked how the website described the sale and Gilbert said properties are “free and clear” at the judicial sale. Morrison said that the language is misleading.

Eggleston acknowledged that this is not a regular occurrence and Gilbert acknowledged the misleading language but said that a purchaser should know the relevant law.

Morrison said the county should do what it can to be clear but Gilbert cautioned that it is “tough” to be clear on real estate law. “This is the way it’s been done forever,” he said.

Morrison asked when a property would go back to a sale if it were pulled.

Gilbert said it would go to the next judicial sale and Chief Clerk Pam Matve said it would be at the judicial sale the following year.

“It’s a headache,” Gilbert said.

Discussion then shifted to also clarifying the language regarding the sale to indicate when the lien searches were completed.

Matve proposed changing the verbiage and undertaking the additional research. “Then all our bases are covered.”

Additional research is to be completed on how other counties handle the issue in advance of the June sale.