Bernstein & Feldman, P.A.

Providing Personal Counsel
And Representation For Over
30 Years

Annapolis Real Estate Law Blog

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.

How to put a stop to foreclosure in Maryland

When a homeowner is falling behind on mortgage payments that could result in the possibility of foreclosure, there are a number of effective methods for solving the problem. Several involve money, but several others do not. They may, however, involve executing an agreement with the lender or going through the court process.

Stopping the foreclosure process should start with an assessment of available assets like retirement funds, savings accounts, disability insurance, unemployment insurance, as well as saleable assets like vehicles, antiques, jewelry, or collectibles. Next, contacting the lender on the property should follow. A homeowner could possibly put together an agreement with the lender that will halt the foreclosure process. Although they are not under any obligation to make modified arrangements on a loan, mortgage lenders sometimes will rather than having to go through the lengthy foreclosure process.

Construction disputes in Maryland

Those involved in construction projects or careers may find that they face contract disputes at times, and in some cases, legal action may be necessary to ensure that goals such as deadlines are met. Although it may not be possible to avoid all disputes, having your contracts drafted by an experienced legal team may help in limiting the possibility for misunderstandings. When disputes do occur, it is possible to work with these same professionals to address the issues according to the law.

A thorough understandings of all angles of a contract can be helpful in mitigating a dispute. Each party to a contract may be focused on the needs of their company and job, and an experienced construction and real estate lawyer may be able to help in working toward an acceptable resolution without the need for litigation. At the same time, that professional's understanding makes it possible to take stronger action if necessary to achieve compliance with a contract.

Zoning considerations in Maryland

When a business is considering the purchase of commercial real estate, it is important to research the applicable zoning in the area in which the property is located prior to making any offers. If the property is located in a zone that forbids the type of desired business use, the purchase will end up being useless no matter how good the price for the property may be.

Zoning laws are in place to limit the types of uses and the types of buildings for properties located in given areas. There are different zones in urban and rural areas. In urban areas, some zones forbid the use of a property for any business purpose, designating it instead for residential uses only. Different commercial zones may limit the types of businesses allowed in specific areas of the city. Other commercial zones may have buildings that are zoned as historic ones, limiting the owner's ability to make certain types of improvements.

How can someone avoid a mechanic's lien?

Maryland property owners should know what a mechanic's lien is. A mechanic's lien is a legal claim that a subcontractor or a supplier can make against a property if they have not received payment for their work by the general contractor. Regardless of whether the general contractor has been paid for all of the work done, the claim puts the financial burden on the property owner.

Suppliers and subcontractors must notify the property owner of work they have done on the property within 20 to 30 days after the work has been completed. If the supplier or subcontractor does not receive payment for the work, then they can file a mechanic's lien against the property. The lien will only have an effect for two to six months if no lawsuit is filed during that time.