Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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At issue was the use of a lien on real property as part of a deferred financing arrangement for the construction of water and sewer infrastructure to serve a new home development. To carry out a deferred financing strategy, Developer used an instrument called a declaration, which provided for payments of an annual assessment by future homeowners to Respondent. The declaration purportedly granted a lien by future homeowners to Respondent to secure the payment of the annual assessment and gave priority to that lien at a date before the development was constructed or any homeowner had granted such a lien. Petitioner, the holder of a deed of trust that arose out of the financing of one of the homes in the development, brought this action to clarify the priority of its interest in that property in relation to the lien asserted by Respondent for delinquent assessments. The Supreme Court held (1) the declaration recorded by Respondent did not itself create a lien on the property because Petitioner must follow the procedures set forth in the Maryland Contract Lien Act to establish a lien under the declaration with respect to delinquent assessments; and (2) the priority of that lien is determined by the date of its recording in the land records. View "Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. v. Saddlebrook West Utility Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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This lawsuit was the result of the amendments to an area master plan to prohibit surface mining in certain mineral-rich areas of the county. The amendments were made by County Council of Prince George’s County, sitting as district council. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether two mining companies and a mining trade organization (collectively, Respondents) could seek judicial review of the master plan and whether the master plan amendments were preempted by state law. The Court of Appeals held (1) Respondents can seek judicial review of the master plan under Md. Code Ann. Land Use 22-407; (2) the trial court erred in upholding the district council’s adoption of the master plan amendments as procedurally proper; but (3) the amendments are severable, and the remaining portions of the master plan still stand. View "County Council of Prince George's County v. Chaney Enterprises Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Maryland Condominium Act allows access to communally-held property to be restricted as a means to enforce payment of condominium fees, but such restrictions must first be authorized by the unit owners through agreement in the condominium’s declaration. In this case, a condominium association and its management firm (collectively, Elvaton) claimed that unit owners William and Dawn Rose were delinquent in paying their condominium fees. The association thus prohibited the Roses from parking in the parking lot overnight or using the pool until they paid their allegedly delinquent fees. The circuit court ruled that Elvaton did not have the authority to restrict the Roses’ use of the parkings lots and the pool as a means of collecting on the debt. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Elvaton did not include a restriction to the general common elements of the condominium as a means to enforce payment of condominium fees in the condominium’s declaration, the restriction was invalid. View "Elvaton Towne Condominium Regime II, Inc. v. Rose" on Justia Law

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The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals affirmed the decision of the Howard County Board of Appeals approving a conditional use application for a funeral home in Howard County’s Rural Residential-Density Exchange Option zone. The Howard County Board of Appeals hearing examiner initially denied the proposed conditional use plan, but after public hearings and two revisions, the Board approved the conditional use application subject to several conditions. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the Board properly analyzed the revised plan pursuant to the relevant statutory requirements; (2) the Board did not err in concluding that the revised plan would not create an adverse cultural impact on vicinal properties or that such impact will be beyond those ordinarily associated with funeral home and mortuary uses; and (3) substantial evidence supported the Board’s conclusion that the revised plan contemplated a 100-foot stream buffer in compliance with state requirements. View "Clarksville Residents Against Mortuary Defense Fund, Inc. v. Donaldson Properties" on Justia Law

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In order to recover attorney’s fees against a negligent title searcher using the collateral litigation doctrine, the plaintiff must show that the title searcher’s negligence proximately caused the plaintiff to file a necessary collateral action, resulting in the plaintiff incurring reasonable litigation costs necessarily and in good faith, and that the plaintiff has not otherwise received compensation for those costs. The Ochses purchased property from the Henrys. The Ochses later learned that a encumbrance bisecting their lot was part of a strip of land that had been granted to Dorchester County. Prior to this discovery, the Ochses filed a lawsuit against the Henrys to quiet title. The Ochses later filed a lawsuit against Chicago Title Insurance Company and Eastern Shore Title Company (ESTC), the title examiner, alleging breach of contract and negligence. The trial court found in favor of the Ochses and awarded a $215,710 against ESTC and Chicago Title, which was the amount of the attorney’s fees awarded to the Ochses in the Henry litigation. The trial court subsequently reduced its judgment against ESTC and Chicago Title by $215,710. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err by reducing the damages awarded to the Ochses by the amount previously satisfied by the Henrys. View "Eastern Shore Title Co. v. Ochse" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Court of Appeals was whether - without ruling out other possible causes of exposure - the fact that property tested positive for lead-based paint throughout its interior in 1976, combined with other circumstantial evidence, was sufficient for Plaintiff to establish that the subject property was a “reasonably probable source” of his lead poisoning. Plaintiff claimed that he was poisoned by lead-based paint as a toddler when he lived in a row house owned by Respondent during 1996 and 1997. The trial court granted Respondent’s motion for summary judgment on source and source causation. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Plaintiff presented sufficient circumstantial evidence to demonstrate that the subject property was a reasonably probable source of his elevated blood lead levels, and therefore, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the issues of source and source causation. View "Rogers v. Home Equity USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Jayson Master sought access to a lease between Calvert Tract, LLC and Whole Foods. Calvert Tract had earlier voluntarily provided a redacted version of the lease to Prince George’s County while its zoning application was pending. The County denied Master’s request seeking access to the lease, explaining that the lease was not subject to disclosure under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA). Master then filed a complaint seeking access to the lease. The trial court granted summary judgment to Calvert Tract and the County, concluding that the lease was confidential commercial information and therefore was exempt under the MPIA. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, holding that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the grounds that the lease was protected from disclosure under the MPIA’s confidential commercial information exemption. View "Amster v. Baker" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a Delaware limited liability company, owned and managed an apartment building in the City of Annapolis, Maryland that was within the designated historic district under the City’s zoning ordinance. The Annapolis Historic Preservation Commission issued two historic preservation municipal infraction citations to Petitioner. Petitioner requested a trial, and the district court found in favor of the City. In a de novo appeal, the circuit court entered summary judgment in favor the City after Petitioner admitted to replacing historic wood windows with vinyl windows without the Commission’s approval. Thereafter, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, alleging several claims of error. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) historic preservation municipal citations are civil and, in this case, were not barred by laches or the relevant statute of limitations; (2) the citations in this case were sufficient to give Petitioner adequate notice of its violations, and the circuit court’s judgment was not clearly erroneous; and (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying Petitioner’s motion for a new trial or, in the alternative, to amend the judgment. View "Spaw, LLC v. City of Annapolis" on Justia Law

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Applicants applied for a petition for a special exception in the Baltimore County Zoning Regulations to operate a fuel service station with a convenience store. At a hearing conducted by the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), several petitioners (collectively, Protestants) attended in opposition of the grant of the special exception. The OAH granted the petition with conditions. After a de novo evidentiary hearing, the Board of Appeals for Baltimore County approved the conditions for the special exception. The circuit court affirmed the Board’s decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the Board’s description of the neighborhood impacted by the special exception was precise enough to enable a party or appellate court to comprehend the area that the Board considered; and (2) the Board correctly determined that the Protestants failed sufficiently to rebut the presumption of validity of a special exception. View "Attar v. DMS Tollgate, LLC" on Justia Law

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Baltimore County zoning regulations provide for a planned unit development (PUD) approval process that is partly legislative and partly quasi-judicial or adjudicative. Whalen Properties, LLC, the developer of a proposed PUD, submitted a PUD application to First District Councilman Thomas Quirk of Baltimore County. Thereafter, Stephen Whalen, the owner and principal of Whalen Properties, distributed $8,500 of the company’s money to several individuals with instructions that they deposit the sums into their own accounts and to donate those amounts to Councilman Quirk’s campaign committee. An adjacent landowner challenged the subsequent approval of the PUD, alleging that the appearance of impropriety generated by the donations invalidated the approval process. The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals affirmed the decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because the introduction and passage of a resolution is a legislative action, the legislative intent is subject to limited judicial review; and (2) an alleged appearance of impropriety generated by illegal campaign contributions does not negate the presumption of validity of the legislative act. View "Kenwood Gardens Condos., Inc. v. Whalen Props., LLC" on Justia Law