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Annapolis Real Estate Law Blog

Maryland commercial real property leases

When a commercial tenant enters into a lease, it could be a gross lease or a net lease. A gross lease means that the rent will encompass all of the expenses related to renting a building. A net lease means that the tenant pays a lower rate of rent, but it will also have to pay certain additional expenses.

A net lease can be in the form of a single, double or triple net lease. In a single net lease, the tenant pays a portion of the property taxes in addition to utilities and janitorial services. In a double net, the tenant pays a portion of the property taxes and insurance. In a triple net lease, the tenant pays for a portion of property taxes, insurance and common area utilities.

Title insurance and real estate disputes

Maryland homeowners or those about to purchase a home may have questions about title insurance. A title gives a purchaser the right to use the property and to own it. Such rights are not inherently granted, and there may be problems associated with the title.

Title insurance covers many but not all possible problems associated with the title. Generally, a title search will uncover problems that may hinder a title but not all. Title insurance is available in two formats, lender's and owner's title insurance. Lender's insurance protects the lending institution from losing money. As the loan is paid, it decreases disproportionately to the owner's risk. In addition, having an owner's policy is important to cover the risk.

Dealing with issues involving construction defects in Maryland

When a new home is built in a defective manner, the homeowner may believe that the contractor who built the home is liable for that defect. There are a variety of allegations that can be made, including that the contractor engaged in negligent behavior, breached a contract between the two parties or acted in a fraudulent manner.

The law states that a contractor must have the proper skills to do the job correctly. Furthermore, the law states that the contractor has a duty of care that extends to anyone who may be damaged, which may include future owners of the home. Contractors are generally responsible for the work of a subcontractor. If the contractor is found to be in breach of contract, the contractor may be subject to the substantial performance doctrine. This may require the buyer to be liable for the contract price of them home less the diminishment in value of the home caused by the defect.

Understanding various types of construction defects

Maryland construction professionals can deal with a variety of challenges in both the design and execution phases of a project. Some defects may manifest even while the project is still underway. Others may take several years to become apparent. The nature of some of these defects can be major, resulting in safety being compromised for those who use the facility in question. Other defects may be more decorative in nature. However, defective work can be inconvenient and costly for the property owner who must address these issues at a later date.

There are four primary categories into which construction defects are placed. These include design issues, material deficiencies, workmanship and subsurface problems. Design issues are typically based on professional errors by engineers or architects who create plans for a structure. These may be tied to building code errors or function problems.

Undisclosed defects when purchasing a home

As Maryland homeowners may know, buying a new house may be a joyous occasion until the buyer is faced with a major defect in the home that was not disclosed. For instance, an undisclosed leak in the roof may be a costly repair and may damage interior wiring and insulation. However, the new homeowner may have recourse to recover damages for a hidden defect.

When selling a house, the owner is responsible for disclosing known major home defects in the property. Disclosure requirements vary from state to state, and some states may include an inspection to assure the new owner that termites are not present. Federal law requires that home sellers disclose the presence of lead-based paint in homes that might be costly and time-consuming to remove as well as a potential health hazard for the new buyers.

Construction disputes and legal issues

Construction projects in Maryland affect many parties, and disputes can crop up for various reasons. Resolution is not always easy, making it important to consider legal assistance as you attempt to work through misunderstandings. Although litigation may be the eventual direction taken as you try to reach that resolution, there may be alternative steps that can minimize court costs and time.

Claims may arise over design and construction activities as a client notes flaws. Structural flaws could lead to serious safety problems, making it important to pinpoint the reasons for such flaws. In some cases, the issues might be fixable. In other cases, your project could be dramatically delayed as corrections are made. Your legal team may need to investigate to identify whether your design team or contractor has been negligent. You may also face issues with delays and costs that exceed your expectations. In such cases, your legal team may need to address the terms of your contract that have not been successfully met.

A guide to the various types of zoning

Towns and cities in Maryland and throughout the country use zoning regulations as a way to organize and regulate growth and make sure that areas have designated uses. Such regulations govern land use and other activities within a town or city. There are several different kinds of zoning, including historic, rural, agricultural, industrial, commercial and residential. Following is a brief description of a few zoning categories and what kinds of structures and uses are associated with them.

Commercial zoning governs commercial businesses including what types are permitted and where they can be located. Vacant land that may be attractive for this type of development can be covered, as well as some warehouses, hotels, shopping centers, nightclubs, office buildings and other similar structures. Residential zoning laws regulate several aspects of residential areas such as the number of structures that can be placed on a property and the kinds of animals allowed there. For instance, residents may not be permitted to keep farm animals like chickens, goats or horses in areas zoned for residential use.

Maryland homeowners and insurance coverage for natural disasters

In Maryland and other states, homeowners may be surprised to find that the terms of their home insurance policies are not what they seem. In the interest of reducing the cost of paid claims, most insurance companies offer varying coverage for natural disasters known as 'acts of God." In many cases, homeowners living near high-risk areas for a natural disaster may have limited or nonexistent coverage in the event that their home is hit by a flood, hurricane, tornado or landslide.

Those who live on flood plains or active faults may find that they have to purchase a supplemental insurance policy to protect their home from area-related disasters. Such high-risk areas include those with a high incidence of wildfires, hurricanes, volcanoes, landslides and earthquakes, among others. Even if a general insurance policy covers natural disasters common to these areas, homeowners may still face higher premiums to cover the increased risk.

Challenges to zoning ordinances

As Maryland residents may know, local governments use zoning as a way to protect the health and welfare of residents as well as the characteristics of a particular area. On occasion, the governing body may initiate a rezoning plan that may infringe on property owners' rights. In such cases, the landowner may seek to either waive or challenge the new zoning requirements.

Landowners whose property use changes under new zoning laws may ask the local authorities to grant a waiver or issue a variance. A landowner who has used its property in a particular way such as conducting a business and has expended funds to do so may ask that this be allowed to continue unabated despite the ordinance. If granted, this is considered to be a lawful nonconforming use.

Maryland adverse possession laws

Maryland residents interested in real estate transactions may wish to know more about a state real estate law that may seem counterintuitive. This law allows others to unlawfully possess land for a period of time in order to gain ownership of that property.

This legal principle, known as "adverse possession," has been around for a long time. It is an effort to ensure that landowners make use of the land that they possess. The Maryland law allows someone who is technically trespassing on land for 20 years to own that land after the end of that period of time. This means that if the trespasser meets the adverse possession requirements for two decades, they are legally the owners of that land that they had been trespassing on.