Homeowner stuck with lien after records delay


MEMPHIS, Tenn.– A grass cutting mix-up leads to confusion and nearly $3,000 out of a homeowner’s pocket.

You can hear birds chirping outside Sean Boyette’s rural Shelby County home. That’s a big reason why he moved there, buying the property out of foreclosure.

The sale went smoothly.


“They did a title search. Everything was clear. So we signed. Got the property,” Boyette said.

In fact, in documents provided by his agent you can see there was nothing owed on the property when he bought it in January of 2016.

But about a month later, the county put a lien on his property for $2,850. It turns out it’s for grass they cut the year before when he didn’t own it.

Without checking, his mortgage company paid the county and then in turn charged him. He tried to get answers.

“I’ve contacted the Shelby county mayors office, sent them an email, called, so obviously the right people aren’t hearing this issue,” Boyette said.

That’s when he called the WREG Problem Solvers.

Shelby County officials declined our request for an interview. In an email, the trustee’s office provided a timeline, admitting the mowing took place in 2015 but didn’t get recorded as liens until 2016, saying in part “According to the records of County Public Works, the fees were incurred in 2015, liens recorded at the Register in 2016 and forwarded to this office.”

Mike Christoff is a title attorney who did not work on this case but he did review the documents involved and said this problem comes down to the county’s delayed timing in registering the lien.

“It’s really hard to know if you can give clear title to someone if the county is not going to file a lien until six months after they cut the grass on the property. It makes it impossible to know,” Christoff said. “You’d expect them to file it more quickly so you can have some certainty when transferring properties”

He said that’s why Boyette’s title guarantee is useless.

“This is an instance where there is an exception to title insurance policy where a tax lien wasn’t public record at the time when you bought the house,” Christoff said.

Despite years of frustration, our efforts finally paid off for Boyette.

He said he still never heard back from Shelby County officials but his title agent is now taking up the fight and agreed to reimburse him the $2,850.

“Because of your investigation, you were making phone calls and getting responses where I was running into dead ends,” Boyette said.

But even more than the money, he’s frustrated he had to turn to the Problem Solvers in the first place.

“I just wish Shelby county would’ve been more receptive to me as a tax-paying citizen of Shelby county. Hey I’ve got a problem. I need somebody to help me. I just got the runaround til you got involved and I appreciate that,” Boyette said.

We did ask Shelby County Public Works as well as as Mayor Lee Harris’ office about the policy and why it took so many months to register the lien. They never responded.

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