The 411 on the 311: How the City of Atlanta cyberattack affects your clients

Posted on April 11, 2018

PHOTO CAPTION: Attorneys Zach McElveen and John Hocutt of Campbell and Brannon closing attorney firm discuss how the cyberattack on the City of Atlanta’s computer systems is affecting water service payments and real estate closings at Beacham & Company’s weekly sales meeting on April 10, 2018.

Story from Campbell and Brannon

On March 22, 2018, the City of Atlanta was hit by a ransomware attack, leaving all city systems paralyzed, including the Department of Watershed Management and the atl311 website. The effect of this ransomware has caused the following problems:

  1. Watershed management is unable to read water meters;
  2. The atl311 customer portals are inaccessible, preventing customers from looking up or paying their accounts online, or establishing new service online; and,
  3. City of Atlanta cannot process any payments made for water.

What does this mean for homeowners?

  • Any current water bills that homeowners have in their possession should be paid by mailing a check to the Department of Watershed Management.

NOTE: Payments cannot be processed at this time. Instead, all checks sent to the city will be stamped upon receipt and processed once the system is back up and running. As a result, there will be no late penalties for water payments received during the system outage.

  • The City of Atlanta will backdate all water bills once they are able to read the water meters

What does this mean for Buyers establishing new service with the City?

  • Buyers can still set up new water accounts, however, the only means of setting up a new water account is by providing the water application, settlement statement, and copy of ID IN PERSON.

Where?

72 Marietta Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30303 OR

55 Trinity Avenue SW, Atlanta, GA 30303

  • If a Buyer attempted to set up water with the City by way of faxing or emailing the application during the system outage, that application was not received! That Buyer must apply in person.
  • Once the system is back up and running, we recommend that all Buyers who purchased during this outage period resubmit their application either in person or online, calling to confirm service. We anticipate that the City may not be able to keep up with the volume of applications being submitted in person once back online and a lapse in service may result following the system coming back online if Buyers don’t double check with the City at that point.

 What does this mean for Sellers terminating service with the City?

  • Sellers will not be able to turn off water service until the system outage is resolved.
  • Final meter read billing statements will be delayed.

What does this mean for Buyers and Sellers for Closings during this time period?

  • Water bills attach as a lien on title just like property taxes and must be paid by the Seller to convey good and marketable title. This holds true even if some bills in the chain of title are from a prior owner.
  • While the outage continues, Campbell & Brannon will ask each Seller to produce the following for all closings:
    • A copy of the Seller’s Owner’s Title Policy if the Seller has owned the Property for less than seven years;
    • A copy of the Seller’s most recent bill with proof of payment.
  • To seek to cover some of the risk that the Buyer will take on from any unpaid water bills which can’t be verified due to the system outage, Campbell & Brannon will hold an escrow if the Seller is unable to produce the two items referenced above. The amount of funds held in escrow will depend on the circumstances of each file.
  • Buyer’s title insurance policies will contain an exception for prior water bills which cannot be verified during this time period. Campbell & Brannon will require all Sellers to sign an indemnity to protect the Buyer for any bills which may be outstanding when the system is back online.