December 15, 2002
Who is responsible when a tree or limb falls on a neighbor's property, causing damage or personal injury? These issues are raised in two letters to the Mailbag. Larry N. Thompson of Silver Spring recently put new fencing around his 60 acres. Due to gypsy moth infestation several years ago, many dead trees are on both sides of the fence. Two dead trees on neighbors' property fell and tore down a portion of Thompson's new fencing. Repairs cost about $1,900. Both neighbors said their insurance would not cover the damage and refused to pay. Thompson asks, "Are my neighbors liable?"
August 24, 2003
Many tenants as well as landlords don't know that Maryland law imposes strict obligations on handling security deposits on residential leases. A landlord who fails to comply with the law may be liable to the tenant for up to three times the security deposit withheld plus reasonable attorney's fees. Here are some frequently asked questions about security deposits: What is the maximum amount a landlord can charge as a security deposit on a residential lease? A security deposit cannot exceed two months' rent per dwelling unit, regardless of the number of tenants.
March 2, 2003
A reader writes to say that she owns property that carries ground rent that no one has paid in 20 to 30 years. She has not been able to locate the owners of the ground rent, their estate or descendants. She wants to refinance the loan on the property but her bank will conduct the transaction only for a fee simple property. The reader says she needs to redeem the property and then settle on the loan and wants to know how to accomplish the task. Dear reader: Court proceedings would be necessary to wipe out the ground rent on your property.
February 23, 2003
Dear Mr. Azrael: In 1990, my husband and I arranged for the purchase of a house in Anne Arundel County, naming him, myself and two of our children as four-way ownership. In 1991 my husband died, naming me as his beneficiary. At his death and subsequent probate of his will, do I now own 50 percent of the house? Or is ownership now divided between the three surviving owners? What will I have if the house is sold? What will happen to my share when I die and what arrangement should be made regarding the house in my will?
March 30, 2003
A reader writes that he inherited a small lot on the Eastern Shore of Virginia after his mother passed away two years ago. He asked the local taxing authority what needed to be done to transfer the property to his name. He was advised of the procedure for transferring the property for tax records, which basically involved sending authorities a copy of the will. He then began receiving and paying tax bills. He never received any deed or other documentation showing him as property owner.
February 15, 2004
Dear Mr. Azrael: Recently, my mother passed away and I am the executor of her will. There are two ground rents that she owned. How do I turn them over to other family members? Can I do this myself or do I have to have a lawyer to process the papers? How much would this cost, as the properties are very old? Dear reader: Under Maryland probate law, there is a specific process that must be followed to transfer real property of a decedent to the persons who are legally entitled to receive the property.
October 19, 2003
A reader asks if there is a standard rate for mortgage insurance and how to calculate it. Dear Reader: Mortgage insurance protects a lender against loss if the borrower stops making mortgage payments. Most lenders or investors require mortgage insurance when the mortgage amount exceeds 80 percent of the property value. FHA loans are covered by a mortgage insurance program administered by the federal government. Private mortgage insurance is sold by a number of companies - Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corp.
May 12, 1993
Traditionally, spring is the time to clean up your act. I began by delving through a stack of unanswered mail. I won't say I have been negligent in keeping up with my correspondence. I'll just say to all those December and January letter writers: Your moving testimonials on the joy of fruitcake made me weep. But, please, no more recipes.Now on to more seasonal topics, such as Baltimore's taste or lack of it for Tex-Mex food, puffy pancakes, and the quest for separate checks at restaurants:JJTC Tough talk from TexasFrom: Trish Campion, La Marque, TexasRe: Baltimore's below-average consumption of Tex-Mex foodsDear Happy Eater: As a native of Charm City, I moved to Texas in 1978 and was not thrilled about Mexican food.
November 21, 2004
I had a new home built four years ago. Unfortunately, the flashing for the windows was poorly done and rain can easily make its way underneath the siding. Over the years, and unknown to me, my house has been rotting. The problem became apparent only when I had water leaking into my basement. A handyman removed some siding, and the rot was so bad at points, that insulation could be seen sticking through the rotted fiberboard. The handyman has located other parts of the house that will need to be repaired.
August 17, 2003
The pre-printed real estate contract used by most Maryland real estate companies requires buyers and sellers to mediate any dispute arising out of the contract before filing a lawsuit or instituting an administrative proceeding. Mediation often is effective in settling disputes. The parties are brought together with a neutral mediator who often can assist them in resolving their conflict. But the real-estate contract does not disclose that each party must pay a $100 administrative fee to initiate mediation and that mediators charge each party $100 for two hours.