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Annapolis Real Estate Law Blog

Annexation considerations and procedures in Annapolis

Annexation is the process by which unincorporated land around Annapolis is acquired for development. The City Council considers petitions for annexation based on a number of factors. Petitions are generally looked upon favorably when granting them is likely to promote economic development and improve the quality of life of Annapolis residents. The council considers petitions for land that will be developed immediately as well as proposals for future development. While the council considers the benefits that a proposed project would bring to the city as a whole, a petition is unlikely to be granted if property values in the area are expected to suffer.

Economic factors are considered carefully when assessing the merits of proposed annexation, and petitions must be accompanied by details regarding the cost of providing municipal services to the area as well as the likely economic benefits of granting the petition. However, annexation proposed solely to increase municipal revenue is considered inappropriate. Petitions also contain a detailed description of the land in question and the names of all of the area's property owners.

Maryland mechanic's liens

The state of Maryland provides the ability of people who have repaired, improved or constructed real property to seek payment for the work performed by placing mechanic's liens against the property. By seeking and obtaining a mechanic's lien, contractors may ensure they are compensated for the work they performed for the property owner.

Under the law, when a contractor who has performed work according to the provisions of a contract may seek such a lien against any building, bridge or other piece of real property for which they have not received payment. The mechanic's lien can be for up to 15 percent of the value of the real property. Mechanic's liens may not be placed on real property for which a bona fide purchaser has completed payment for the disputed property.

Addressing construction defects in Maryland

Unfortunately, sometimes construction companies make construction errors, resulting in defects that can lead to structural and other problems. People are able to file a construction defect claim in order to recover damages, as long as they file the claim within Maryland's applicable statute of limitations.

Construction defects may be patent, meaning they are obvious and visible, or latent, meaning they are hidden. Latent defects may later become patent ones. Signs that a construction error resulted in a defect include such things as cracks in foundations and walls, poor drainage, drafty windows, gaps, tripping electrical panels, pooling water in lawns, flickering lights and heating and cooling units that make strange noises.

What should I do if I have a complaint about a Maryland realtor?

While the vast majority of real estate licensees in Maryland are honest, issues may come up during a given transaction. Buyers or sellers who feel as if they have suffered a loss may file a claim against a licensee. Any complaint that is filed must be done under oath and in writing, and it must state how much was lost due to the licensee's actions.

When filing a complaint, it may be possible to include documentation and any other facts to support the claim being made. If a complaint is made against the Guaranty Fund, the claim must be related to real estate within the state of Maryland. The maximum payout for such a claim is $25,000 of losses paid out-of-pocket. No punitive damages will be awarded, and commissions either paid or received cannot be part of such a complaint.

What is a certificate of merit?

A number of states have begun requiring certificates of merit before someone can file suit against a design professional, and Maryland is one of them. Professional engineers often carry malpractice insurance due to the amount of liability they face for allegations of breaches of contract, property damage and personal injury or wrongful death due to negligence or malpractice on their part. As a result, engineers are often targeted by individuals seeking relief for alleged harm.

In some cases, the connection to an engineer for damage or injury is tenuous at best. The goal of a certificate of merit is to verify that a professional engineer may well have been part of the reason that someone or something suffered harm. Without a certificate of merit, individuals may not file suit for malpractice.

Understanding homestead laws in Maryland

A homeowner facing serious financial challenges might worry about the loss of a home in case of bankruptcy. Most states, including Maryland, have laws that offer certain protections in such cases. By designating a property as a homestead, it may be protected from action by creditors of certain types.

The homestead laws in Maryland do not limit the amount of acreage that can be protected from adverse possession situations, but there is a limit on the total property value. For an individual, the maximum property value is $3,000. In a Title 11 scenario, an additional $2,500 can be protected. However, this protection may be limited in certain situations. For example, a pledge of the property in question when seeking a mortgage would make the property ineligible for homestead protection. If there is a lien against the property prior to designating it as a homestead, the property would not be protected.

Understanding the transfer of property in Maryland

Maryland property owners or potential homebuyers who choose to participate in a real estate transaction may deal with a number of professionals throughout the process. Many might do business with a qualified real estate broker. However, it can be important to insure that the professional is licensed to provide brokerage services by the state. The licensure is generally offered through the state's real estate commission.

During a real estate transaction, purchase agreements must be made in writing. In typical real estate transactions, there is an agent representing the buyer and an agent representing the seller. The state regulates the actions that these agents are allowed to perform. The state maintains no laws about how much time the seller has to respond to a purchase for the transfer of property. If the buyer elects to make an earnest deposit, the real estate broker must hold the funds in a separate trust.

Guiding principles for land use in Annapolis

In October 2009, the Annapolis City Council adopted Resolution R-32-09, which is also known as the Annapolis Comprehensive Plan. The third chapter of that plan establishes principles and goals for land use and economic development. Some of these principles may affect how some entities may have to approach zoning requirements.

One of the principles outlines in the plan suggests that the city will attempt to help protect potential investments by protecting them from future hazards, such as flooding. Decisions regarding land use must also consider historical patterns of development and current use of certain sections of the city. This principle was included because at the time the document was adopted, only about 3 percent of the city's usable land was vacant, making it clear that a majority of future development would rely on gradual redevelopment of land that is currently in use.

Maryland state grant may be used to buy waterfront property

The city of Annapolis may purchase a vacant waterfront property that was formerly Fawcett Boat Supplies. A $1 million grant from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources would pay for a portion of the purchase. Another $3.5 million would be paid over five years at an interest rate of 5 percent. Legislation to buy the property would be introduced at a Sept. 22 meeting.

The current owner of the property issued a letter of intent on Sept. 5 to sell the property under certain terms and conditions. While some members of the city council want to purchase and revitalize the property as soon as possible, others are concerned that the city doesn't have that much money to spend. The mayor of Annapolis said that he was concerned that citizens would react negatively to spending $4.5 million on a private property.

Maryland airport set for expansion after council vote

Plans for a major expansion to a Maryland public use airport drew a step closer to fruition on Sept. 16. Hartford County officials voted 5 to 1 to grant a zoning exemption and variance to the Hartford County Airport Owners Group. The airport is located off Route 156 near Churchville.

The council member who voted against the motion cited a lack of local oversight. He said that state and federal agencies such as the Maryland Aviation Administration and the FAA would decide what type of aircraft would use the improved airport facilities. Local residents voiced fears about larger and louder aircraft becoming regular visitors to the airport. They were concerned about the possible knock-on effect that this would have on both property values and the quality of life of people living in the area around the airport.