Relating to Real Estate

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Relating to Real Estate - November 2020









Be Careful Where You Throw Your Cigarette Butts

The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed a jury verdict, finding Steamfitters Local Union 602 (Steamfitters) liable for the damages in excess of $1.2 million caused for a fire that spread to its neighbor’s property. The fire started because people on Steamfitters’ property discarded cigarette butts into mulch. The Court held that Steamfitters had a common law duty to use reasonable care, and it was up to the jury to determine whether Steamfitters had breached its duty. Steamfitters Local Union No. 602 v. Erie Insurance Exchange, et al.; Steamfitters Local Union No. 602 v. Cincinnati Insurance Company, et al., 469 Md. 704 (2020).

Although Steamfitters contended that it owed no duty to its neighbor, the Court noted that for at least 80 years, it has recognized that ownership, operation, and maintenance of property is accompanied by a common law duty to use reasonable care not to cause harm to neighboring property owners.

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Contact Ed Levin | 410-576-1900


Lenders: Don’t Worry if You Lose Your Deeds of Trust

What if you lose a deed of trust en route to the clerk’s office, so the deed of trust does not get recorded? The Maryland Court of Special Appeals (CSA) held that a copy of the deed of trust was sufficient to establish the lender’s position, and the deed of trust would have lien priority from the date it was executed. Popkin v. Federal National Mortgage Association, No. 2289, Sept. Term 2018, 2020 WL 5588676 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Sept. 18, 2020).

In Popkin, Raphael Davy, Jr. executed a deed of trust (the Refinance Deed of Trust) encumbering his home in favor of PHH Mortgage Corp. to secure a loan (the Refinance Loan). The Refinance Deed of Trust was lost or misplaced, and so it was never recorded. PHH had possession of the original promissory note secured by the Refinance Deed of Trust. PHH transferred the note, along with ownership of the Refinance Loan and the beneficial interest in the Refinance Deed of Trust, to Fannie Mae.

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Contact Tierra Dotson | 410-576-4242


An Estoppel Certificate Might Not Amend a Lease

Does an estoppel certificate signed by a tenant with terms that vary from the underlying lease amend the lease? Not necessarily, according to the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Expo Properties, LLC v. Experient, Inc., 956 F.3d 217 (4th Cir. 2020).

Experient Inc. (Tenant) leased property from Expo Properties, LLC (Landlord) under a lease signed in 1994, which had been amended five times (altogether, the Lease). When Tenant prepared to vacate the property in 2012, Landlord asked Tenant to perform significant move-out work, including repairs to the roof; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system; and carpeting. Tenant refused, claiming that the Lease did not require Tenant to perform the work.

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Contact Ed Levin | 410-576-1900

Sleeping on the Job

Occasionally, employees live in housing owned by their employers without a separate agreement. Are such employees tenants or licensees? In a case of first impression in Maryland, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals (CSA) held that such an employee is a licensee, and not a tenant, when the occupancy is incidental to or necessary for the employee’s work. Uthus v. Valley Mill Camp, Inc., 243 Md. App. 539 (2019).

Bruce Uthus worked at a camp operated by Valley Mill Camp, Inc. (Valley Mill) and lived in an apartment on the camp property for more than 18 years. Valley Mill terminated Uthus’ employment and asked Uthus to vacate the property. Uthus refused. Valley Mill then filed a trespass claim against Uthus in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. The circuit court found that Uthus’ continued stay at the camp property was a trespass and issued a summary judgment ruling in favor of Valley Mill. Uthus appealed, arguing that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction because Uthus was a tenant, and thus any action must be brought as a wrongful detainer action or otherwise as a landlord-tenant claim in district court.

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Contact Ed Levin | 410-576-1900

Solar Panels May Be Limited by HOA

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that a homeowners association (HOA) had the power to prohibit solar panels on the portion of roofs that are visible from the street despite a statute that prohibits unreasonable limitations on the installation of solar panels. Blood v. Stoneridge at Fountain Green Homeowners Ass’n, Inc., 242 Md. App. 417 (2019).

Jonathan and Megan Blood wanted to add solar panels to their house so they placed 15 solar panels on the front roof and 33 on the rear. Then they asked for approval from their HOA, which demanded that the Bloods remove the panels from the front-facing part of the roof. When the Bloods refused to do that, the HOA brought suit in the Circuit Court for Harford County. That court sided with the association.

Read more.

Contact Ed Levin | 410-576-1900

Pay Attention to Your Domain Names so You Do Not Lose Them

Control over domain names is precarious. Innocent mistakes and inattentiveness can cause loss of control. When buying the assets of a business, be sure you obtain the domain names and change the contact emails to someone in your trusted circle. When employees leave, consider whether they were listed as owners of company domain names and the need to replace them as listed contacts. When a credit card is compromised, consider if that card is used to pay the automatic renewal fees for domain names.

Companies that inadvertently allow their domain names to expire may have to pay a ransom to gain control back or may need to enter arbitration to get the domain name back. Having a registered trademark identical to a domain name is a valuable tool in wrestling domain names back from cybersquatters. 

For questions, contact Ned T. Himmelrich.

Contact Ned Himmelrich | 410-576-4171

Speaking of Real Estate


Best Lawyers in America® has ranked the Gordon Feinblatt LLC practice areas of Real Estate Law, Litigation — Land Use & Zoning and Litigation — Real Estate as Regional Tier 1 — Baltimore. A total of 22 Gordon Feinblatt practice areas were similarly ranked.


William D. Shaughnessy, Jr. and Caroline E. Nurmi led a presentation titled “Commercial Leasing: Considerations and Practical Tips in the Age of COVID-19” for the October 27, 2020, virtual meeting of the Baltimore chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.


Please join us for Relating to Real Estate: Hot Topics 2020 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, November 19, 2020.

The program will be moderated by Danielle Stager Zoller and will include the following presentations:

  1. “Lease Agreements during COVID-19” by Caroline E. Nurmi
  2. “Electronic Signatures and Remote Notarizations” by Edward J. Levin
  3. “New Maryland Employment Laws/COVID-19” by Charles R. Bacharach

There is no fee for this seminar, but registration is required and has been extended to Tuesday, November 17, 2020. If you responded to our Save the Date, you should have received an email from Stephanie Forbes-Glave with Zoom information for the event. If you have not, please email her at