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First Day For Manual Real Estate Workaround As Baltimore's Computers Remain Crippled By Ransomware

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Many people are conducting business with Baltimore the old fashioned way almost two weeks since a ransomware attack took the city's computer system's hostage.

On Monday, there was a small line inside Room 1 of the Wolman Municipal Building next door to City Hall as people manually settled liens — allowing real estate transactions to finally move forward.

"I've been here for two hours and they haven't called me," said Nick Shelly who works for a title company. "They are bad normally, but they're not this bad."

Nakita Jones came to look up information on tax liens and sales.

"Online you can't pull up anything, but when I came to the building, I actually got quicker service," Jones said.

Jones conceded if she were actually completing lien paperwork, it would have taken much longer, and "if you're trying to pay anything, you may as well just go home."

Jeffrey Raymond with the Department of Public Works said you can pay water bills by check and there are no late fees at the moment. The online system remains down.

Raymond urged patience for those dealing with DPW.

"We will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. so we will have somebody here to take your payments. If you do have a bill that has not been paid, please pay it," Raymond said. As for when the computers will be back online, he said he was not sure at this point."

The deadline for paying the 13-bitcoin ransom came and went last week. WJZ checked the bitcoin wallet listed in the ransomware threat and found there were no recent transactions — even though Mayor Jack Young said Friday he would consider paying the ransom.

The attack is under criminal investigation by the FBI.

Kevin Bobbitt came to the Wolman Building to figure out if a property was in a tax sale for a water bill.

"They can't even search the water bill. They can't do anything. They're basically at a standstill," Bobbitt told WJZ. "By now, they probably would have come out cheaper just to pay the ransom. In the long run, it's going to cost them way more."

For now, this is the manual workaround for handling real estate liens:

  • Baltimore City will accept requests for lien certificates in person at the Abel Wolman Municipal Building at 200 N. Holliday Street, in Room 1.  All transactions must be made in-person.
  • Any seller or transferor of a property will be required to sign a form Affidavit for Payment of Outstanding Charges. The Affidavit will re-affirm the transferor's obligation to pay any outstanding charges that would otherwise appear on a lien certificate together with a promise to pay such charges within ten days of receipt of an invoice from the City.
  • While the mainframe is inaccessible, the city will issue lien certificates showing zero liens and including a reference to the form Affidavit. This will remove any responsibility for paying any property debts or settling the liens from the new owner of the property. That responsibility will rest solely on the transferor.
  • At the time of recording, the responsible parties should pay all the open liens of which they are aware by check or money order.
  • The lien certificate, with the Affidavit attached, should be hand-delivered to Room 1B of the Abel Wolman Municipal Building at 200 N. Holliday Street.
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