As an owner of real property, you may have to assert or defend your rights. Rights affecting real property can take many forms from:
- Condemnation & Eminent Domain
- Critical Areas Laws
- Easement & Right of Ways
- Homeowners’ Association Defense
- Property Boundary & Adverse Possession Claims
Collectively, we refer to these as Property Rights actions.
How We Can Help if Your Property is being Claimed by the Government
How We Can Help if Your Property is being Claimed by the Government
The government’s power of eminent domain can be intimidating to a Maryland property owner who is facing the prospect of condemnation or having his or her property acquired for a public project. The government’s acquisition of your property can be disruptive to your personal life or business. Worse, if the acquisition is being completed pursuant to the government’s “Quick Take” power, the legal transfer of title can happen long before you have received your just compensation.
When a property is being acquired by a government agency you should immediately explore hiring a Maryland eminent domain lawyer and a real estate appraiser willing and competent of testifying before a jury. Roper & DiBlasio litigates condemnation and eminent domain cases in Baltimore City and throughout Maryland. We may also accept Valuation Challenges (i.e. – Just Compensation cases) on Contingency and, through our contacts with reputable appraisers and business valuation experts, handle your case from start to finish.
How to Protect Yourself if your Property is being Claimed by the Government
Although the formal eminent domain or condemnation process begins when the condemnation complaint is filed, activities that take place prior to the initiation of a condemnation lawsuit often have a significant effect on the value paid for the acquired property. Decisions made at the beginning of the acquisition process may have a long reaching effect on the final resolution of the case. The importance of retaining experienced counsel at the initial stages cannot be overemphasized.
- Retain an Attorney – A Maryland eminent domain lawyer can better inform you what your are up against, demystify the acquisition process, and give you an honest opinion as to whether you are better off challenging the government’s ability to take your property and/or to challenge the value set forth by the government’s appraiser (i.e. a valuation challenge). Roper & DiBlasio may accept Valuation Challenges on a Contingency Fee basis.
- Get an Independent Valuation of Property – The government’s acquisition agent will always explain that the offer being made is based on an appraiser’s determination of fair market value. However, the property owner should remember – the appraiser determining the government’s fair market value was hired by the government. As such, another appraiser could have a different and significantly higher opinion of fair market value. Do not delay in scheduling your independent appraisal. Timing your appraisal close in time to that of the acquiring agency will aid negotiations or court proceedings.
- Let your Attorney Negotiate with the Acquiring Agency – Both the acquiring agency and the government will rely on the appraisals completed by their respective experts for the negotiation process, and if necessary, valuation trials. By negotiating through counsel, you can avoid the costly mistakes of not knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the appraisals, accepting an unfair offer, or making statements that are later held against you. Additionally, a skilled negotiator may help limit the issues to be presented for trial and sometimes, provide you with interim financial relief.
- When Necessary, Prepare for a Valuation Trial – A Maryland eminent domain attorney can assist you in dealing with the inequality in bargaining positions, which often may only be possible through a court proceeding. In court, both the governmental agency and the property owner may present evidence that will reflect their opinions of fair market value, and where appropriate, challenge the opinions of each other’s respective appraisers.
Critical Areas Compliance
Maryland’s Critical Areas program affects a wide range of land use decisions for areas within 1,000 feet of the tidal waters or adjacent tidal wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The program applies equally to large scale developers building an entirely new community and individual homeowners who may only want to add an addition to their homes.
The planning and permit process requires compliance with the Critical Areas Act and thus, it cannot be ignored. Many unfortunate people have completed several stages of the permitting process, only to learn that that their plans will have to be modified and may even be rejected. Depending on the scale and stage of the project, this can be financially devastating.
Roper & DiBlasio offers Critical Areas compliance counseling so that throughout your project, there’s someone to help you understand the regulations, and help your architects and planners create a final plan that should not be impeded by the Critical Areas review process. Alternatively, when you feel that your plans cannot be compromised, we can represent you through the exception/variance process and request that your plans be accepted as is.
Easements & Right of Ways
Property easement law, also known as right of way laws, describes the rights to use some part of a property for a specific purpose. An Easement gives its holder a right of use over the land of another and arises by express grant or operation of law. Easements may be Appurtenant (“running with the land”) or In Gross (i.e. – for the benefit of a specific property owner).
Examples of common types of easements in Maryland include:
- Right-of-way Easements;
- Utility Easements;
- Drainage Easements;
- Conservation Easements;
- Solar Easements;
- Sewer Easements; and
- Driveway Easements.
Easements are either affirmative (i.e. – allow the easement holder to use someone else’s property for a specific purpose) or negative (i.e. – prohibiting a landowner from using his property in certain ways). A Conservation Easements an example of a negative easement.
Absent a written document, easements may be created by Necessity; Prescription; and Implication. Easement disputes relate to planned improvements, encroachments upon other’s lands, or the use of the easement for unauthorized purposes.
An experienced real estate attorney counsels clients on their rights and obligations arising from both express and implied easements. Additionally, a real estate attorney can assist in the review of surveys, title searches, and other relevant documents when easement disputes arise and will represent clients in all phases of easement litigation
Homeowners’ Association Defense
There is no other way to say it, sometimes condominium and homeowners’ associations assert rights they simply don’t have or advance the agenda of a select few without regard for the community. Taking on these cases without counsel can be a daunting and sometimes futile effort.
If you purchased your property in Maryland within the past twenty (20) years, you probably signed a document at closing acknowledging that you received and reviewed your communities’ homeowners’ association rules. In fact, in Maryland, these documents can often be grounds to terminate a contract of sale. As such, defending your case by saying “I didn’t get the documents” is usually a bad idea.
Your homeowners’ association probably employs a property manager and at least one law firm. If your battle is worth fighting, do not fight it without legal representation – there exist Maryland Codes that could entitle you to an award of attorney’s fees if you are ultimately successful.
Property Boundary/Adverse Possession Claims
Property disputes should be a simple matter of comparing a survey to the land in dispute. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case and emotions can run high because you are dealing with your land and the biggest problem lives next door. Oftentimes, the problem is actually the result of failing to address an issue a long time ago – like twenty (20) years or so. Thus, the connection between property boundary disputes and adverse possession claims.
Believe it or not, even in an area as populated as Maryland, there exist valid claims for adverse possession. These are usually the result of changes to a development plan where some of the lands either go unassigned or areas set aside for roads are later merged into the development plan. The result, free claimable land.
Whether your matter relates to a property dispute among neighbors or a claim to land, you want experienced counsel. An experienced real property attorney can help you understand your rights and how to properly assert and/or defend same.