Workaround takes effect during ransomware attack in Baltimore

Baltimore City's real estate market is slowly moving again after it was stopped in its tracks amid a ransomware attack that hit the city's computer systems two weeks ago.

The city's data was still being held hostage Monday, but city officials launched a manual workaround for property sales.

With the city's computer systems still shut down on Day 14 of the RobinHood ransomware attack in Baltimore City, it has been impossible for people to get the documents needed to prove there are no liens against a property, which title companies require when purchasing a home.

Starting Monday, home sellers were signing affidavits promising to pay any outstanding debt once the system is back online. The Wolman Municipal Building opened early and filled quickly with people trying to record properties.

"We're here especially for that gridlock that seems to be created as a result of real estate transactions that are held up," said Janice Simmons, chief of the Bureau of Revenue Collections.

"It has been peaceful. I mean, you just have to be patient. They're doing it the old-fashioned way," said Leon Fields, who was trying to record property.

"It's the first day, so it's not working out at all," said Marvin Yablon, who works for a title company. "It's mass confusion, and we'll see how it plays out."

"Honestly, I'm happy to be here because I do about 100 a week," said Jackie Lewis, with RecordingsRUs.

Real estate transactions may be the bigger-ticket item, but they're vastly outnumbered by water bills, which are also being paid manually at the Wolman Municipal Building while Baltimore's network is held hostage.

"The volume of our water transactions would be in the thousands," Baltimore Department of Public Works spokesman Jeffrey Raymond said. "Bear with us, we're doing everything we can."

The city is also now accepting personal checks and money orders to make payments, but people cannot use cash or credit cards.

The city said it processed 42 applications for property deeds on its first day.

Simmons confirmed that parking tickets are another casualty of the ransomware attack, and that parking tickets were not being issued.


The city of Baltimore has developed a manual workaround that will allow real estate transactions to proceed during the city's technology outage. The plan took effect Monday. To accommodate citizens, the Abel Wolman Municipal Building will operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday for the week.

The workaround that was developed by the city includes the following steps:

The lien certificate, with the affidavit attached, should be hand-delivered to Room 1B of the Abel Wolman Municipal Building at 200 N. Holliday St.

    Baltimore City will accept requests for lien certificates in person at the Abel Wolman Municipal Building at 200 N. Holliday St., in Room 1. All transactions must be made in-person.

    Any seller or transferer of a property will be required to sign an affidavit for payment of outstanding charges form. The affidavit will reaffirm the transferer's obligation to pay any outstanding charges that would otherwise appear on a lien certificate together with a promise to pay such charges within 10 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 affidavit form. 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 transferer.

    At the time of recording, the responsible parties should pay all the open liens of which they are aware by check or money order.