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Annapolis Real Estate Law Blog

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.

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.