Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgments of the circuit courts in this consolidated appeal concerning judicial review of the most recent permits issued to Carroll County and Frederick County under the Clean Water Act and a parallel Maryland regulatory scheme, holding that the Maryland Department of the Environment did not exceed its authority when it issued the permits and did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in including the challenged terms in the merits. Specifically, the Court of Appeals held (1) the Department may lawfully include an impervious surface restoration requirement in a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) discharge permit without reference to the maximum extent practicable standard; (2) the Department may lawfully include an impervious surface restoration requirement in an MS4 permit; (3) the Department had authority to treat Frederick County and Carroll County as phase I jurisdictions for purposes of their MS4 permits; (4) it was not arbitrary or capricious for the Department to refrain from including "water quality trading" as a compliance method for MS4 permittees; and (5) an ambiguous provision in the Carroll County MS4 permit did not transfer the responsibilities of other agencies to the County. View "Department of Environment v. County Commissioners of Carroll County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court determining that state law preempted a local zoning authority with respect to solar energy generating systems (SEGS) that require a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) issued by the Maryland Public Service Commission and that the Commission had exclusive jurisdiction to approve the type of SEGS proposed by Perennial Solar, LLC in this case. Perennial applied to the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals (Board) for a special exception and variance to construct a SEGS. The Board granted the variance and special exception. Aggrieved landowners sought judicial review, and Washington County intervened. While the petition for judicial review was pending, Perennial moved for pre-appeal determination challenging the subject matter jurisdiction of the circuit court. The circuit court granted the motion, determining that Md. Code Ann. Pub. Util. (PU) 7-207 preempted the Washington County zoning ordinance. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that PU 7-207 preempts by implication local zoning authority approval for the siting and location of generating stations that require a CPCN. View "Washington County v. Perennial Solar, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the circuit court ruling in favor of a homeowner's association (Association) on its lawsuit against Diane Steele for unpaid assessments, holding that Steele owed the Association dues in the amount of $1,257.60. Steele owned a home in the Diamond Farm development of Montgomery County, which was managed by the Association. While in accordance with the Association's declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions, the Association must obtain at least two-thirds of the members' total votes to increase annual assessments, assessment increases in 2007, 2011, and 2014 did not receive the requisite two-thirds vote for approval. Consequently, Steele ceased making payments. The Association subsequently brought suit seeking unpaid assessments and attorney's fees. The district court entered judgment in Steele's favor because the Association failed to establish the amount of dues owed. On de novo appeal, the circuit court ruled in favor of the Association. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the ultra vires statute, Md. Code Ann. Corps. & Ass'ns. 1-403, and the doctrine of equitable estoppel operated as a bar to Steele's defense that the Association's fee increase were invalid; and (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in awarding $1,257.60 in attorney's fees. View "Steele v. Diamond Farm Homes Corp." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that a proposed municipal annexation that encompassed an area consisting entirely of tax-exempt properties did not require consent from the owners of such properties pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Loc. Gov't (LG) 4-403(b)(2) and that an proposed annexation plan did not attempt to usurp law enforcement jurisdiction over certain lands contained within the proposed annexation area that were owned and managed by Maryland—National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC). The circuit court invalidated two resolutions of the Town of Forest Heights that, collectively, annexed into the Town 737 acres of land. All of the annexed lands were tax-exempt, and the owners of the lands were not required to provide their consents to the annexation. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the twenty-five percent property owner consent requirement of LG 4-403(b)(2) does not encompass tax-exempt property owners; and (2) the language contained within the annexation plan was appropriately conditioned so as to avoid any usurpation of law enforcement jurisdiction over properties owned and managed by MNCPPC. View "Town of Forest Heights v. Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals dismissing an appeal, on its own initiative, as premature and remanded the case to that court with instructions to treat the notice of appeal as timely filed, holding that the appeal should proceed on the merits in the Court of Special Appeals. Petitioner petitioned for a writ of certiorari, arguing that he timely filed the notice of appeal and that the appeal should be reinstated. The Court of Appeals exercised its discretion to hold that, under the circumstances of this case and pursuant to Maryland Rule 8-602(g)(1)(D), Petitioner’s notice of appeal should be treated as if it were filed on the same day as but after the entry of the trial court’s final judgment. View "Carver v. RBS Citizens, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Mayor and Common Council of Westminster (the Council), holding that substantial evidence in the record as a whole supported the Council’s denial of Petitioner’s application to amend the General Development Plan for Wakefield Valley (the Wakefield Valley GDP) to permit construction of fifty-three homes on “Parcel W” of a former golf course (the Application). After the Council voted to deny the Application, the Council adopted an ordinance denying the Application and incorporating an attached written decision. The circuit court affirmed the Council’s decision as set forth in the ordinance. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the Council’s decision denying the Application was a quasi-judicial act, not a legislative act, as was therefore subject to judicial review; (2) the Council did not err in considering the zonal classification of Parcel W in evaluating the Application; and (3) there was substantial evidence in the record to support the Council’s decision. View "WV DIA Westminster, LLC v. Mayor & Common Council of Westminster" on Justia Law

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At issue in this consolidated appeal was whether the Maryland Collection Agency Licensing Act (MCALA), as revised by a 2007 departmental bill, was constrained to the original scope of collection agencies seeking consumer claims or whether the revised statutory language required principal actors of Maryland’s mortgage market to obtain a collection agency license. In 2007, the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation requested a department bill to revise the definition of collection agencies required to obtain the MCALA license. The enacted departmental bill changed MCALA’s definition of “collection agencies” to include a person who engages in the business of “collecting a consumer claim the person owns if the claim was in default when the person acquired it[.]” The circuit courts below dismissed the foreclosure actions at issue in this appeal, concluding that foreign statutory trusts acting as a repository for defaulted mortgage debts were required to obtain a MCALA license before its substitute trustees filed the foreclosure actions. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the foreign statutory trusts did not fall under the definition of “collection agencies” that are licensed and regulated by MCALA, and therefore, the foreign statutory trusts were not required to obtain a license under MCALA before the substitute trustees instituted foreclosure proceedings on their behalf. View "Blackstone v. Sharma" on Justia Law

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In this breach of contract case stemming from the failure to pay for labor and materials provided by a construction subcontractor (Petitioner) to a general contractor through six construction contracts, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments of the circuit court and the court of special appeals in favor of Respondents. The Court of Appeals held (1) where there has been an invocation of the Maryland Construction Trust Statute, there must be a showing that the statute applies to the contracts in dispute; (2) Md. Code Real Prop. 9-204(a) contains a requirement that the contracts be subject to the Maryland Little Miller Act or the Maryland Mechanics’ Lien Statute; and (3) Petitioner failed to demonstrate that the protections afforded by the Maryland Construction Trust Statute were applicable. View "C&B Construction, Inc. v. Dashiell" on Justia Law

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In this case involving a dispute over real property, the Court of Appeals held that Md. Code Ann. Real Prop. 14-601 to 14-621 and Maryland Rules 12-801 to 12-811 apply retroactively to all cases that were pending when the new statutes and Maryland Rules became effective, including this case, which was pending in the Court of Appeals when the statutes and Maryland Rules became effective. When applied to this case, the new statutes and Maryland Rules do not require dismissal for failure to join a deceased record owner who has no known personal representative. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals and remanded the case to that Court with instructions to vacate the judgment of the circuit court and remand this case to the circuit court for further proceedings, namely, the filing of an amended complaint to quiet title with the appropriate affidavit in accordance with the new statutes and Maryland Rules governing actions to quiet title. View "Estate of Charles Howard Zimmerman v. Blatter" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding that the Dormant Mineral Interests Act (the Act), Md. Code Ann. Envir. 15-1201 through 15-1206, is constitutional and terminating Petitioners’ mineral interests. The Act authorizes a circuit court, under certain circumstances, to terminate a dormant severed mineral interest, thus effecting a merger of that mineral interest with the estate overlying it. Owners of surface estates (Respondents), invoked the Act, seeking termination of dormant mineral interests held by Petitioners. The circuit court entered a final order merging the terminated mineral interests of Petitioners into the surface estates of Respondents. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Act does not violate Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights or Article III, section 40 of the Maryland Constitution because the Act is not retrospective and vested rights are not subject to Maryland’s enhanced protection rule. View "Ellis v. McKenzie" on Justia Law