Baltimore property market shows signs of movement after manual workaround put in place amid ransomware attack

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore’s property market is moving again this week after city officials found a manual way to process real estate transactions amid a paralyzing ransomware attack on government computers.

Since the workaround was put in place Monday, the city has processed 462 applications for property deeds, the mayor’s office said Friday. On a typical day, the office handles between 150 and 175 transactions, according to a City Hall news release.

The ransomware, which shut down many city computer systems last week, has made it impossible for buyers to obtain certificates showing there are no liens against the properties they want to purchase. Without those certificates, title insurance companies have been unwilling to sign off on transactions.

The mayor’s office announced a plan last week to manually process the transactions by having people come to a downtown office to get substitute certificates showing no liens on the properties being sold. Sellers were asked to sign an affidavit promising they’ll pay any outstanding debts once the computer system comes back online.

While the manual system allows sales to move forward, the files will need further processing by the city once electronic systems come back online. On Monday, clerks were dropping paperwork into a pair of cardboard boxes to be finalized later.

The seizing up of the property market has been one of the most dramatic effects of the ransomware attack, which began May 7 and also took down city email and payment systems.

The office that handles property transactions in the Abel Wolman Municipal Building at 200 N. Holliday Street, in Room 1, had extended operating hours through Friday. Next week, the office is scheduled to return to normal hours of operation.

Baltimore Sun reporter Ian Duncan contributed to this article.

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