County Clerk Office- One-Stop-Shop for All Liens & Encumberences?

10 Replies

Is the County Clerk office really one-stop-shop for all kinds of all possible liens and encumberances? Does everything record with them?

I'm talking water, sewer, back taxes, past condo fees, property tax liens, other kinds of possible liens? Municipaity liens?

And yes - and number of open loans?

Basically - can I be sure and confident - that they've covered everything when they give me the report on a property?

If they are - I prefer to call them up once a month with a few properties, or even go in personally.

The real question is are they really all encompassing?

PS - I am talkig about Hudson County - does anyone have experience with it? I havent found their online database either.

I'm not entirely sure what you are calling a municipality lien, but, no, in my experience, no office in Hudson County will have information about any issues that an individual municipality has on the property. Each municipality can and does impose their own laws, fines, violations, etc. So it's very conceivable (and has happened to me) that extremely pertinent information about a property (such as the presence of open, still-accuring violations) will only be obtainable by doing a records request at the municipality level. That sort of info certainly won't be disclosed on, say, a title search. Whether there has been an actual lien filed by the city is maybe less significant if a property has been accruing fines/violations in the city, and the city believes these issues will follow the property on sale.

As an aside, I'm not entirely sure if the clerk's office per se has any of this information--but the Hudson County Register's office, http://www.hudsoncountynj.org/office-of-the-hudson..., I believe maintains property records and etc. I've never had occassion to contact the Register's office myself, but presumably when you have a title search conducted, the data that the Register's office has is a large component of what will be used. I would trust a title search to reveal open issues that appear in the property records, but, again, municipal issues will, in my experience, not appear in the property records--it's up to you and/or the seller (usually in their capacity to present you with a certificate of occupancy from the city and whatever else) to find and resolve these issues.

Originally posted by @John Errico :

 Each municipality can and does impose their own laws, fines, violations, etc. So it's very conceivable (and has happened to me) that extremely pertinent information about a property (such as the presence of open, still-accuring violations) will only be obtainable by doing a records request at the municipality level. That sort of info certainly won't be disclosed on, say, a title search.

 That makes it even more complicated if municipality charges wont appear on title search.

I wonder now, in a "traditional sale", how does the Title search company determine the Municipality liens and encumbrances - and clear the title for sale?

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The title company isn't usually involved in this stuff. In a traditional sale, the seller is responsible for obtaining a certificate of occupancy from the city (most banks will not close on a mortgage without this, most attorneys would advise that you not buy a house without this). You may also need (your attorney on your behalf or bank may require) a smoke/fire certificate from the city. In general, a city won't issue a certificate of occupancy if there are outstanding issues (violations, open permits, whatever else). So if the city has issued one, this is pretty good evidence that none of those issues exist. For short sales, REO sales, etc., frequently you as the buyer are required to obtain these certificates--however, again, the municipality should (hopefully) inform you what if anything is required to obtain them.

Basically: either you or the seller will be obtaining a CO from a municipality prior to closing, and, if a CO is granted, that's good evidence that there are no open permits, violations, whatever else from the city regarding that house. I wouldn't close on a house with a CO, or without at least a temporarily CO detailing whatever may be required to get a real CO (like if you're buying a house under an agreement and understanding that you'll remedy or pay for whatever issues the house may have).

@James W. ,

To expand a little on @John Errico 's post, in most cases, a document or item you need - such as a transfer stamp, Certificate of Occupancy, etc. - is required in order for the closing to go forward. Sometimes, you don't learn about this until the day of closing, and end up running around like a chicken with your head cut off just to gather everything so the closing can proceed as scheduled.

David J Dachtera

"Success is not a destination. Failure is not an event. Success is a process, failure is a choice."
- DJ Benedict

Originally posted by @David Dachtera :

@James W.,

To expand a little on @John Errico 's post, in most cases, a document or item you need - such as a transfer stamp, Certificate of Occupancy, etc. - is required in order for the closing to go forward. Sometimes, you don't learn about this until the day of closing, and end up running around like a chicken with your head cut off just to gather everything so the closing can proceed as scheduled.

David J Dachtera

"Success is not a destination. Failure is not an event. Success is a process, failure is a choice."
- DJ Benedict

In case of condos - the CO Smoke Fire and Permits - dont they already are with the Management or the HOA?

Originally posted by @James W. :
Originally posted by @David Dachtera:

@James W.,

To expand a little on @John Errico 's post, in most cases, a document or item you need - such as a transfer stamp, Certificate of Occupancy, etc. - is required in order for the closing to go forward. Sometimes, you don't learn about this until the day of closing, and end up running around like a chicken with your head cut off just to gather everything so the closing can proceed as scheduled.

David J Dachtera

"Success is not a destination. Failure is not an event. Success is a process, failure is a choice."
- DJ Benedict

In case of condos - the CO Smoke Fire and Permits - dont they already are with the Management or the HOA?

I realize you're looking for general rules. Trouble is, so many of these issues vary from one town to another, County or even township, state, ...

Once you get to know your area, you'll know where to go to get what you need.

I know - that's not the answer you're hoping for.

David J Dachtera

"Success is not a destination. Failure is not an event. Success is a process, failure is a choice."
- DJ Benedict

 

@James W. I think you're going find out the Clerk doesn't "send you a report on a property"......they have the recorded documents, and make them accessible, it's up to you to learn to sift through them, and create your own "report".

@James W.

To your question

That makes it even more complicated if municipality charges wont appear on title search.

I wonder now, in a "traditional sale", how does the Title search company determine the Municipality liens and encumbrances - and clear the title for sale?

When I want to understand if a municipal lien exists against a property I search and find them at the courthouse.  That is straight forward.

That being said, liens recorded at the courthouse does not necessarily tell the whole story.  Sometimes these municipal entities have not gotten to the recording phase.  Read my post "Burned by foreclosure" link to post.  The best thing to do is call local departments which could have an interest in the house such as water and sewer.  It has been my experience these folks have the latest bill and can pull up any recorded liens.  You may find not all of these folks are that helpful and some may want info requests in writing.  IMO is always pays to be nice, respectful and to always start the conversation out with (who you are, what your doing and then what you want).

I am dumbfounded by the statement that title searches conducted prior to a sale do not reveal all outstanding bill/liens/tax/whatever.  That is what they do.  That is what you pay them for.  Maybe I just misread.   Whatever. 

On a last note, municipal liens is just a small piece if the overall puzzle and really one of the easier aspects of the process.  Not sure this is the case but, if you want to start getting into title searches get some books on the subject.  Make some friends at the courthouse who do this for a living, or hire an attorney to sit down with you.  Never assume the folks who work for the county have any clue, many of them have no clue simply because it is not their job to.

Hope this help. 

I have a feeling - that in case of condominiums - some big liens are out of the picture.

Like Sewer and Water.

Question - am I right that in case of condos - the Certificate of Occupancy, Smoke & Fire Certs, Permits etc . - should be the Management's Responsibility, and not of the unit owner?

How much each of them cost anyway, ballpark?