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.
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.
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.
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?
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?"
June 12, 2000
JUNE LILLY COBB remembers a time when postal delivery, like everything else, was different in Elkridge. Each day, Cobb's grandfather Bob "Pop" Lillywould briefly close his Main Street barbershop and pick up the outgoing mailbag at Boswell's General Store. Then he would hang the bag on the mail post by the tracks and watch as the train passed. From the moving train, the outgoing bag would be swept off the post and the incoming bag left behind. Lilly would carry the mailbag back to the general store for distribution.
June 13, 1999
Dear Mr. Azrael:We're looking into buying a new home in Farmington Village in Pasadena. We're looking at two different houses, one is a Ryan home and one is a Grayson home. They are about the same price. I just wanted to know possibly which way we should go. We're very confused and we're trying to decide between the builders and we really don't know who to go with.Janet Sumner CrownsvilleDear Ms. Sumner:Since the two new homes you are considering are not identical, you should focus on which home has the features you want most.
March 21, 1999
Dear Mr. Azrael:What recourse do we have for dealing with a mortgage that's charging late fees, but the cause of the fee is actually their delay in processing?We were recently charged a late fee by [our mortgage company], but my payment was not processed for over 20 days after it was mailed. It was mailed from Baltimore to Pittsburgh in late January and was not processed until Feb. 17, 1999.They charged me a late fee of $67.50. To this point we have not been able to get any help through their customer service line, which takes over an hour to get through at times.
March 14, 1999
Dear Mr. Azrael:My husband and I bought my present home in February 1944. The house is in both of our names.My husband died in 1970. I have allowed the deed to the house to remain unchanged. The metered-water bills continue to come in my late husband's name.Recently, I heard that unless I have the deed to the house reworked, and my husband's name deleted, my children will not have clear title to the property when I die.Can you tell me if this is true? At the present time, neither of my children are interested in occupying the house after I die.Ella Mae Kirby HalethorpeDear Mrs. Kirby:Now, here's what you need to know about leaving your home to your children:You and your late husband owned the home jointly, as husband and wife.