Md.'s highest court to hear ground-rent registry challenge
Maryland's highest court will consider a challenge to the state law that wipes out ground rents not registered before a September deadline.
Charles J. Muskin, trustee for a family estate that includes ground rents, sued last year, arguing that the law amounted to an unconstitutional taking of property.
A Baltimore judge ruled in favor of the state, saying the registration rule didn't "retroactively create or eliminate property rights, but instead, prospectively conditions the continued ownership of ground rents on compliance with the requirement of registration." Now the state Court of Appeals will review the case.
Another challenge to the raft of ground-rent reform laws passed in 2007 is headed for trial in Anne Arundel County. That class-action suit contends the changes to the way owners are allowed to collect past-due accounts, intended to keep investors from seizing homes over small debts, made ground rents effectively worthless.
The constitutionality of the registry is an interesting legal question, and some will be waiting anxiously for the court's opinion.
On one side are ground-rent owners who didn't register -- many of whom (at least among those who have contacted me) are elderly and were unaware of the provision. On the other are the homeowners who rushed to officially extinguish the ground rent on their property after it wasn't registered, and who don't like the thought that it might come back from the dead.
Muskin, an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court master, was aware of the law but said he only managed to register about two-thirds of the family's 300 ground rents because he tried unsuccessfully to sell before starting the process.
What would happen to the extinguished ground rents if he prevails, I asked?