A little help for ground-rent owners
Earlier I laid out the steps for homeowners to get the ground rent on their land officially extinguished if the ground-rent holder didn't register it by the deadline last fall. Now here's a flip side of sorts -- assistance for mom-and-pop ground-rent owners who aren't getting paid what they're due.
The help comes courtesy of Louis Wilen, a part-owner of a small number of ground rents who figured the many small-time and elderly owners of such leases aren't having an easy time deciphering the new-ish collection rules. He's sharing examples of a ground-rent invoice and an overdue notice (a heads up that a lien will be forthcoming if the rent money is not).
"The big guys who own hundreds of ground rents already know how to collect -- and the tactics that they used (as reported by the Baltimore Sun) spurred the legislature into changing the ground rent laws in 2007," he wrote me in an email. "Unfortunately, the new laws made collection much more difficult for the small guys. Hopefully, making these sample documents available will help out the little guys."
He added: "Also, anyone who uses the lien warning notice should carefully read the law (which I included with the lien warning notice) and be sure to follow the required notification procedures, which include sending the notice by certified mail, then posting it if the certified mail is not deliverable, notifying lenders (if any), etc., etc. Determining the name and address of lenders requires a title search. The process isn't terribly difficult but it isn't simple, either."
On a semi-related note: The state's highest court is mulling over a challenge to the '07 registration law, which specified that all ground rents not registered with the state before Sept. 30 of last year would cease to exist. Sun columnist Jay Hancock wrote recently that people with a small number of ground rents -- one, in some cases -- got caught by this rule because they didn't know about it.
"Maryland could have given ground rent owners plenty of incentive to register without confiscating their assets," he wrote. "Don't let landlords collect rent until they sign up, for example. Don't let them sue tenants. Don't allow ownership transfers."
Would those penalties for non-registration be better than what's in place now?