Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The Court of Appeals held that an injured tort claimant's rights under a general liability insurance policy do not vest until the claimant has obtained a judgment against, or entered into a qualifying settlement with, an insured.CX Reinsurance Company issued commercial general liability policies to several Baltimore residential Landlords that included coverage for bodily injuries resulting from lead paint exposure at the Landlords' rental properties. CX field contract rescission actions against the Landlords, which the parties settled. Under the terms of the rescission settlements, the coverage for lead paint-related losses was substantially reduced. Claimants alleged they suffered bodily injuries from lead paint exposure while residing in the Landlords' rental properties, but the majority of claimants had not obtained final judgments against, or entered into settlements with, the Landlords before CX and the Landlords settled. The lower courts ruled that the Claimants were intended beneficiaries of the polices. The Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding (1) the Claimants who did not hold final judgments against or enter into approved settlement agreements with the Landlords were not the intended beneficiaries under the policies; and (2) the Claimants who obtained final judgments against their Landlords prior to the settlements of the applicable rescission cases may enforce the pre-settlement terms of the policies. View "CX Reinsurance Co. v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that the Forest Conservation Act of 1991 (the Act) and regulations promulgated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) required a right to appeal the approval of a forest conservation plan and that a county agency's approval of a forest conservation plan is a "final decision" for appeal purposes.At issue before the Court of Appeals was whether the approval of a forest conservation plan, as well as an associated waiver that authorizers a developer to remove trees that would otherwise be protected under the Act, is a final agency decision subject to independent judicial review under the Harford County Forest Conservation Program. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the court of special appeals with directions to remand the case for further proceedings in the circuit court, holding that the Act and regulations promulgated by DNR require a right to appeal the approval of a forest conservation plan and that a county agency's approval of a forest conservation plan is a "final decision" for appeal purposes. View "Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Inc. v. CREG Westport I, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals ruled that the Board of Appeals of Baltimore County erred in reversing an administrative law judge's determination that substantial changes existed between an original development plan and a later proposed development plan, holding that, contrary to the Board's conclusion, the doctrine of collateral estoppel did not bar approval of the later-proposed development plan.After a hearing, the Board issued an opinion concluding that the ALJ erred as a matter of law in ruling that the most recent development plan modification at issue was not barred by collateral estoppel. The circuit court reversed the Board's decision, concluding that the Board misapplied the law and misconstrued the facts in making its decision. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Board erred in concluding that collateral estoppel barred the approval of the most recent development plan. View "Becker v. Falls Road Community Ass'n" on Justia Law

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In this action challenging a proposed amendment that would remove two schoolhouses from a county list of historically protected sites the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court finding that the adoption of CR-72-2019 was not arbitrary and capricious and was supported by substantial evidence, holding that Prince George's County Council acted within its legal boundaries when it adopted the minor amendment CR-72-2019.Specifically, the Court of Appeals held (1) the arguments raised by the Town of Upper Marlboro had not been waived because CR 72-2019 was not a final appealable decision; (2) CR 98-2019 was a final agency action subject to judicial review, and the Town was permitted to challenge CR 98-2019 by alleging deficiencies in CR-72-2019; and (3) CR-72-2019 was not procedurally deficient because the resolution adequately provided the purpose and scope of the minor amendment pursuant to Prince George's County Code 2727-642. View "Town of Upper Marlboro v. Prince George's County Council" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that when a landlord attempts to collect unpaid rent from a tenant during a period when the landlord was unlicensed a tenant may have a claim under the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act (MCDCA) and the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) to the extent that the landlord's unlawful collection activity caused the tenant to suffer damages, including any rent payments made responding to the landlord's attempts to collect unpaid rent.Specifically, the the Court of Appeals held (1) a tenant who voluntarily paid rent to a landlord who lacked a rental license may not bring a private action under the MCPA or MCDCA to recover restitution of rent based upon the landlord's lack of licensure pursuant to the Baltimore City Code, Art. 13, 5-4; and (2) when a municipality or county enacts a rental license law conditioning the performance of a residential lease upon the issuance of a rental license a landlord may not file an action against a tenant to recover unpaid rent attributable to the period when the property was not licensed. View "Assanah-Carroll v. Law Offices of Maher" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that Baltimore City Council's enactment of a local law did not create a private right of action for Baltimore City tenants to recoup rent payments and related fees they paid in connection with their use and occupancy of rental dwellings during a period when the landlord did not have a valid rental license.Petitioners, tenants in a multi-unit apartment building, filed a putative class action alleging that Respondent did not hold an active rental license for the property, as required by the Baltimore City Code, and seeking to recoup paid rent and other fees paid to Respondent. The circuit court dismissed the case prior to a determination of issues relating to class certification. The court of special appeals largely agreed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that section 5-4(a)(2) of Article 13 of the Baltimore City Code does not provide a private right of action to recover rent and related payments that a tenant made during a period in which the landlord was unlicensed. View "Aleti v. Metropolitan Baltimore, LLC" on Justia Law

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In these actions brought by tax sale buyers for declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that Maryland sheriffs exceeded their express and implied authority by adopting policies concerning how to execute writs of possession in tax sale foreclosure cases the Court of Appeals held that the sheriffs had the implied authority to adopt policies for how to serve writs of possession in such cases.This case involved a challenge to two policies used by sheriffs in evicting people from their homes when a tax sale buyer obtains a judgment foreclosing the right of reception with respect to a property and the homeowner does not redeem the property. Under the "mover policy," sheriffs require tax sale buyers to provide movers to remove personal property from the premises when serving writs of possession. Under the "weather policy," sheriffs postpone the service of writs of possession during bad whether conditions. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts' judgments in favor of the sheriffs, holding that, in the execution of writs of possession, both the mover policy and the weather policy constituted a valid exercise of powers daily implied by the sheriffs' expressly given duties and authority. View "Thornton Mellon LLC v. Frederick County Sheriff" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that the circuit court did not err in ordering the City of Balitmore to execute a tax sale deed conveying legal title to the property to Ty Webb, LLC, the assignee of Thorton Mellon, LLC, the tax sale purchaser.The day after the circuit court entered a judgment foreclosing the right of redemption in connection with a tax sale proceeding pending in the circuit court Thorton Mellon executed an assignment purporting to assign Ty Webb its interest in the judgment and tax sale certificate. The Director refused to execute a tax deed to Ty Webb. Thornton Mellon then substituted its interest in the action to Ty Webb, which, as substitute plaintiff, filed a motion requesting an order directing the City to issue a tax sale deed to Ty Webb. The circuit court granted the motion, and the court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that the certificate of sale and judgment were assignable and directing the City to execute the tax deed in favor of Ty Webb. View "Mayor & City of Baltimore v. Thornton Mellon, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that a determination of whether to order reimbursement of attorney's fees under Md. Code Ann., Tax-Property (TP) 14-843(a)(4)(i) after a complaint has been filed is discretionary and that a circuit court may consider whether the tax sale certificate holder (TSCH) impeded the property owner's exercise of the right of redemption in making a determination as to reimbursement.After a tax sale at which the TSCH purchased property, the TSCH billed the owner for attorney's fees and expenses for a complaint that had not yet been filed and did not promptly notify the owner that an expired release could be used to redeem the property. The owner reimbursed the TSCH for the attorney's fees owed at the time, but before the redemption process was completed the TSCH filed a complaint to foreclose the owner's right of redemption. The owner later paid all amounts necessary to redeem the property. At issue was whether the owner was required to reimburse the TSCH for attorney's fees incurred after the complaint was filed. The Court of Appeals held that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in declining to order reimbursement of the TSCH's attorney's fees under TP 14-843(a)(4)(i) or in declining reimbursement of attorney's fees in exceptional circumstances under TP 14-843(a)(4)(iii). View "Thornton Mellon LLC v. Adrianne Dennis Exempt Trust" on Justia Law

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In this case questioning whether the addition of a definition of "lender" to the Maryland Usury Law during code revision effected a significant change in that law that lay latent for four decades before this case arose, the Court of Appeals held that code revision did not change Maryland law applicable to assignees of mortgage loans.Donna Kemp entered into a mortgage loan secured by a deed of trust on her home. The loan was later assigned to Fannie Mae, which contracted with the predecessor of Nationstar Mortgage, LLC to service the loan. Nationstar later declared Kemp to be in default. Kemp, Fannie Mae, and Nationstar entered into a loan modification agreement to resolve the default, but Kemp objected to the assessment of property inspection fees. Kemp filed a complaint, which the circuit court dismissed for failure to state a cause of action. The Court of Appeals held (1) the prohibition on property inspection fees applied to Nationstar as the agent of Fannie Mae; and (2) Kemp's complaint adequately stated a claim under the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act. View "Nationstar Mortgage v. Kemp" on Justia Law