Skip to main content


A recently amended municipal ordinance that becomes effective on January 1st is likely  to cause some headaches for unsuspecting  real estate practitioners and will definitely increase fees that some of our clients are going to have to pay to effect property transfers

The City of Chicago has long required that real estate sellers obtain a water department "full payment certificate (FPC)" before a sale transaction is completed.  The Chicago Department of Revenue will not seller property transfer tax stamps without the full payment certification, and the Cook County Recorder of Deeds will not accept a deed without the transfer tax stamps.

Certain classes of transactions are exempt from having to pay transfer taxes and have been historically also exempt from the requirement of obtaining / presenting a full payment certification. These include transfers to add a spouse (or other party) onto a title; transfer to change the form  of ownership of a property, and transfers that are gifts. This includes transfers that are made for estate planning purposes, and transfers between current owners of the property among themselves.

Effective January 1, 2012, all transfers of property will require a FPC, including previously exempt transaction.

Does the City of Chicago really expect to recoup enough money in delinquent or unpaid water bills from "exempt" transactions to cover the extra cost of labor to process all the additional paperwork?

I do not know, but I do see a couple of issues for consumers and attorneys.

Additional Cost to the Consumer:
The City charges a $50 fee to issue out a full payment certification. Most law firms rely on clerking services to procure the FPC paperwork - who charge an additional  fee to do so. Thus in a typical sales transaction, the seller will pay both an FPC fee and clerking service fee.

However, transactions exempt from transfer taxes will also be exempt from paying the City's $50 FPC fee. Most lawyers will still employ clerking services to procure the paperwork - or charge clients their hourly rates to do so themselves. (consumers will not be "exempt" from paying the "new" clerking fees or additional legal fees).

Aggravation and More Work for Unwary Attorneys:
I predict that more than a few hapless attorneys will try to record quit claim deeds in the coming weeks, unaware of this new policy. They will waste time (and perhaps charge clients) for their resulting additional efforts.

Unfortunately for all of us, the City did not do much of anything to announce this change. I only learned of this yesterday, having run into a learned colleague while we were both in line at City Hall to purchase FPCs for purchase/sale clients (thanks Bob!) and later confirmed by a call over to the Water Department.


Popular posts from this blog

Do I HAVE to shovel? Chicago snow shoveling law and etiquette

Set aside any discussion of climate change for a moment. It’s winter. It’s Chicago. It snows. As a homeowner, you owe it to your friends, family, neighbors and delivery people to keep the sidewalks free of snow and ice.

The Equifax data breach and you — 6 steps to take now

Identity thieves hit a major credit reporting agency—hard. Millions of consumers’ confidential identity information has been compromised.

Equifax, one of the big three credit reporting agencies announced that a massive security breach took place earlier this year. Offenders accessed data sets of 143 million US consumers.

With federal tax reform looming, should I prepay 2017 Cook County property taxes?

By Michael H. Wasserman

Paying property tax bills before the end of the 2017 may help some owners save on their federal income tax liabilities.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has been called the most sweeping tax reform bill in decades. Like it or
not, tax reform is coming. Others might wring their hands with glee or with worry. We are already working on ways to minimize the pain this reform might cause. 
One aspect of the pending tax reform plan presents a clear challenge for most Chicagoland home owners, the elimination of deductions for State and Local Taxes (SALT). The house and senate plans both limit deductibility to $10,000. Once the tax reform is signed into law, we will pay federal income taxes on the money we use to pay our local taxes exceeding that $10,000 threshold. Some homeowners who have the foresight (and lets face it, the savings) to act swiftly may want to pre-pay their first installment 2017 property tax bills this year before the tax laws kick in, so that those payments …