Alabama Tax Lien Real vs Personal Property

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So if I buy the tax deed, the only way to obtain legal rights to the lease and revenue of the billboard is to  go through the full ejectment and quiet title process? Or at worse since it's personal property they could "take/remove" the billboard? This is the only reason I'm interested in the lot. Would like to convert it to a digital board as well.

The vast majority of billboards are placed on leased easements by a large company. They rarely go to a tax sale. The large company usually has a clause that they can take the lease payment and pay the taxes to prevent foreclosure. 

Some are on a purchased easement owned by the large company. You will not get anything for the sign being there after acquiring the property. 

If the sign is owned by the property owner and rented direct to a company, I believe you would own the billboard upon taking possession of the property, just as any other property you acquire in a tax sale. 

States and municipalities also heavily regulate billboards. Once the sign comes down it may never be able to be rebuilt. If it meets all zoning, state, and federal requirements, you may be able to convert it to digital, but I would do my due diligence on that. 

My suggestion is to search the forums for the handful of experienced billboard guys on here and see if they can help.

It is probably personal property. There is no Alabama appellate decision on this point. Many states have statutes clarifying, but Alabama does not.  The IRS treats billboards as improvements to realty. Appraisers treat them as personal property. Most billboards either have lease with definitions about the structure itself and what happens, or a permanent easement.  Many leases are prepaid, so there is no income stream.  Permanent easements are almost always prepaid, so there is no income stream. The company who paid to erect the billboard, or their successors, has redemption rights.  Even if there is a monthly or quarterly lease payment, you cannot simply demand they now pay you. It is illegal for a tenant (residential, commercial, billboard, etc) to basically throw the landlord under the bus and "attorn" to someone like the tax sale investor. You will have to go through ejectment. But, if done improperly, it could end up costing you lots of money and you get nothing in return, not even legal fees.  In short, you can't rely on Google for an answer. It is complicated.

Originally posted by @Denise Evans :

It is probably personal property. There is no Alabama appellate decision on this point. Many states have statutes clarifying, but Alabama does not.  The IRS treats billboards as improvements to realty. Appraisers treat them as personal property. Most billboards either have lease with definitions about the structure itself and what happens, or a permanent easement.  Many leases are prepaid, so there is no income stream.  Permanent easements are almost always prepaid, so there is no income stream. The company who paid to erect the billboard, or their successors, has redemption rights.  Even if there is a monthly or quarterly lease payment, you cannot simply demand they now pay you. It is illegal for a tenant (residential, commercial, billboard, etc) to basically throw the landlord under the bus and "attorn" to someone like the tax sale investor. You will have to go through ejectment. But, if done improperly, it could end up costing you lots of money and you get nothing in return, not even legal fees.  In short, you can't rely on Google for an answer. It is complicated.

 I actually saw my first ever permanent easement for a billboard yesterday. Is this common in Alabama? It's not in any of the states I've dealt in the past. 

@Shane H. , I don't know how common it is. I've seen a number of them. I think it might be because long term leases are separately assessed and have to pay ad valorem taxes, but easements do not, in Alabama.

@Shane H. and @Denise Evans  how could I verify if it's an easement, leased, or owned by the tax payer? This is a tax deed so I'm assuming since the potential billboard owner did not step into pay the taxes that this particular setup does not include the clause. With this in mind the only option is for them to redeem? 

@Denise If there is a permanent easement (prepaid meaning the tax payer received the funds) this would convey with tax deed, if I bought the tax deed (went through the steps for legal possession and ejectment and quiet title). I would have the rights to everything not included what's in the easement? If its a lease with a specified timeframe/length then once the lease ends and I purchased the tax deed (and complete the ejectment and quiet title) I would become the "landlord"? Meaning the lease would be between me and the billboard owner? If there is a quarterly/monthly lease that is active (paying status) and I file ejectment and quiet title would I still have no rights to assume the lease agreement or the land that the billboard is attached to?

@Shane H. how did you "See" the easement?

I see I have a lot to learn and research. I'm up for it as this has now been added to my list of income stream goals. Even if its not with this property particularly but another one. Thank you all for the input. I'm so glad I didn't just jump on this deed.

To be clear, theyre not always a separate document. Sometimes theyre cited in the deed of your property or even another property that gained the easement. Theyre a royal pain. And new deeds say subject to prior easements.

There will be an original document granting the easement. While it is technically possible for Owner A to sell property to Owner B and reserve an easement, that is commonly done only with rights of way.  It would be very rare for Owner A to deed property to Owner B and reserve a billboard easement in A. But, rare is not the same thing as "never happens."  It is always best to read every deed and instrument in the chain of title, fully, to see what is being conveyed and what is being retained.

@Denise Evans

I agree it would be highlt unusual for a billboard. I just meant easements. As i stated earlier, in my experience most billboards are just leases, no recorded easement.

Im curious if this sign has an advertisement on it and a permit or if its abandoned.