Exculpatory Clauses in Leases: Crucial to Use, When Carefully Worded

An exculpatory clause is a portion of a lease that will absolve a landlord of liability for harm suffered by a tenant under certain circumstances. If you’re a property owner in Maryland, you may have heard conflicting answers on your ability to include exculpatory clauses in your leases. The short answer is, exculpatory clauses are legal and smart to use, so long as they are worded in compliance with Maryland law.

Maryland Real Property Code section 8-105 lays out the terms under which an exculpatory clause is valid. Essentially, a landlord can include a term in a lease that indemnifies them against injuries suffered by tenants, resulting from the landlord’s negligence, in any area of the leased property that is under the tenant’s exclusive control. This means that a landlord cannot exclude himself from liability for injuries which occur in any public areas, such as parking lots, hallways, or elevators that were caused by a landlord negligently failing to maintain the premises. The particular space leased by the tenant is different, however. Even where a landlord maintains a right of entry and inspection of the property in order to prevent losses, this will not negate the tenant’s exclusive control over the property.

For example, in one case, a landlord rented a restaurant space to a tenant that had been faultily wired by the landlord. When that restaurant space caught fire, the tenant attempted to sue the landlord for his damages. However, since the negligently-wired area was in a space entirely under the control of the tenant, the tenant’s claim was dismissed. In another case, the landlord had leased a woodworking space to a tenant which included equipment that the landlord knew had caused injuries to past tenants. When the new tenant was injured by the equipment, his claim was dismissed by a federal court, as the equipment was solely within the tenant’s control when the injury occurred, and the landlord had included an exculpatory clause in the lease.

No exculpatory clause can absolve a landlord of liability where the landlord acted grossly negligently, recklessly, or willfully in a way that resulted in the accident in question. For example, if a landlord somehow damaged the electrical system in a property he was leasing to a tenant in order to try to force the tenant out, and that damage resulted in an injury to the tenant, the landlord could not rely on the exculpatory clause to relieve him or herself from liability.

If you are a landlord seeking to create a reliable lease for your residential or commercial property, or if you need assistance with any other Maryland real estate legal questions, contact the Annapolis law offices of Matthew Evans III for a consultation at 410-626-6009.

Mold in the Home: How to Identify and Treat It

If you’re planning on selling your home, you’ll want to know in advance about anything that may be structurally wrong with the house before a pre-sale inspection. No one wants to be caught off-guard with an expensive issue that will either kill a pending sale, or cause the sale price to plummet downward. Likewise, if you’re buying a home, you want to know how certain known defects in the home could affect the home’s value, and whether or not it would be worthwhile going forward with a sale despite the issue. One defect you should keep in mind when evaluating a home is mold.

Where does mold grow?

Even one spore of mold can multiply and form a colony, provided there is sufficient moisture and organic material. Since mold is in the air all around us, mold can grow anywhere that’s moist, especially around leaks in pipes, roofs, and windows. Mold tends to form in certain predictable locations, including around bathtubs, sinks, and toilets, due to the high moisture in the air in a bathroom. Homes with attics also can grow mold; while inspecting the attic, check to see if mold has formed around any leaky spots in the roof. Mold can also form in air ducts and in cavities within the wall. Mold also forms in certain unlikely places, such as under wallpaper, on the non-visible part of ceiling tiles, on drywall, under carpets, and behind furniture. Check around windows and doorways, where water may have seeped in and resulted in mold growth.

What harm can mold cause?

Most significantly, mold can cause physical harm to those living in the home who are constantly exposed to it. Mold exposure can cause asthma attacks and other respiratory problems, skin rashes, coughs, and eye irritation. More severe reactions include headaches, mood swings, nosebleeds, and even memory loss and trouble concentrating. Mold can also cause a serious condition known as “dry rot,” which results in the shrinking and rotting of wood structures in the home.

How can mold be removed?

Mold can be cleaned using bleach or other strong cleaning agents, but if you’re doing it yourself, be sure to use a respirator. While you may not have noticed the effects of the mold in your home before, agitating the dried-up mold can often cause serious reactions due to the concentrated exposure. Due to the potential for causing harm to yourself or your family, hiring a licensed contractor who specializes in mold removal is recommended.

For assistance with your Annapolis-area home sale or purchase agreement, contact a real estate attorney at the Evans Law for a consultation on your real estate issue, at 410-626-6009.

Should I consider a Seller-Financed Mortgage?

Maybe you’ve heard of seller-financed mortgages, or owner-financed home sales, but aren’t sure if they’d be appropriate for your own sale. Below are some facts you should know if you’re considering using a mortgage funded by the seller of the home.

 

 

  • The seller should own the home outright before considering an owner-financed mortgage: Most bank-held mortgages include a clause stating that the loan is due upon sale of the home. What this means is that, if the bank discovers that the seller has sold the home (even if the seller’s name continues to appear on the mortgage), the bank has the option of making the mortgage due immediately, and to foreclose on the home. So, it’s a better idea for a seller not to finance a buyer’s mortgage unless they own the home free and clear.
  • A seller-backed mortgage can be an appealing option to buyers who aren’t traditionally good candidates for a mortgage: In a housing market that isn’t conducive to quick home sales, you may have had a home on the market for a long time. Some buyers actively seek out owner-backed home sales due to the fact that they know they can afford a home, but they know that something on their credit will keep them from qualifying for a loan. It could be that they recently completed graduate school and got a good job only recently, or spending by a former spouse caused a bankruptcy to appear on their credit score, but neither fact is an accurate reflection of their current ability to pay. A seller funding the mortgage can help you move on to a new home more quickly. Many seller-financed mortgages have short terms, as well, since both parties assume that the buyer will be able to procure more traditional home financing by the time the short term has expired by virtue of having improved their credit, or due to an increase in the value of the home.
  • Sellers should take pains to treat the sale as a bank would: If you’re selling your home and considering backing the buyer’s mortgage, take the same care to vet the buyer and protect yourself as would the bank. Ensure that you conduct a thorough credit and background check of the proposed buyer. Hire an attorney whose experience and pool of knowledge you trust to create a reliable agreement between the parties and walk you through the sale process.

If you would like to consult with a knowledgeable Maryland real estate attorney about participating in a seller-backed mortgage, contact the Annapolis Evans Law at 410-626-6009.

Why Use Evans Law

Like a good insurance policy, or like a well-built ship when a storm arises on otherwise calm waters, legal coverage often works best as a good preventative measure in situations that can become complicated when we least expect them to, keeping us safe when we are in a transitional period.

The Challenges of Real Estate, Construction, and Land Use
This rule is especially true in the often rough seas of Real Estate, Construction, and Land Use work, where proper guidance and perseverance is necessary to make the right impact and get the best deals and returns possible on your investments.

Although these areas can be among the most profitable sectors to invest in, they can also include permit and contract work that can be challenging but necessary to deal with. Having experienced and mindful counsel can make this process substantially easier to work through, however.

How the Evans Law Offices Can Help
This is how the Law Offices of Matthew S. Evans III can best help you minimize risk in areas that are difficult to navigate, and allow you to concentrate more on your business or personal needs.

Through serving the Annapolis, Maryland and Washington, D.C. area with more than 15 years of professional experience and public service, Mr. Evans has distinguished himself by specializing in the areas that will matter most to your business or private enterprise.

A Dedication to Public and Private Service
Committed to helping his community with his skills, for example, Mr. Evans has been appointed to the City Council of Annapolis to the Annapolis Building Board of Appeals and serves on the Board of Trustees for the Scholarships for Scholars, Inc., which provides more than $100,000.00 in scholarships to graduating seniors from Anne Arundel County.

Also providing services in contract disputes, in-house counsel, civil litigation and help with settlements, the Evans firm is committed to providing clients with the best legal advice available at the best rates. Calling today can help you learn more about why so many trust the Evans firm with their business and private needs.

Real Estate Legal Service You Can Depend On

Finding an attorney who specializes in real estate law is not always easy. Many attorneys do no take on these cases for fear that the cases will be difficult and stretched out over long periods of time. However, if you are in the Annapolis Maryland area, you can rely on the Attorney Matthew S. Evans III to manage all of your real estate law needs.

This attorney has many years of experience in various types of cases involving real estate. He has helped finalize real estate transactions in both residential and commercial cases that have resulted in the satisfaction of all involved parties. Those who have received his services have been very pleased with his knowledge and professionalism when taking on cases that some attorneys will not even consider.

There are different scenarios that require the assistance of a real estate attorney. This may include buying or selling residential or business property, landlord and tenant disagreements about rental lease contracts and overseeing contracts between retailers and local communities about the location of new businesses. Even in real estate cases where there are no disagreements, it is best to have an attorney should any problems arise unexpectedly.

If you live in the Annapolis area and have plans of purchasing or selling real estate in the near future, you may want to consider Attorney Matthew S. Evans III for your legal representative. This will ensure that the entire process is completed lawfully and that you have the best experience possible in buying or selling real estate property. You will also receive a free consultation before hiring this attorney to fully understand what to expect during the transaction.

The services of this attorney are very beneficial for those who are interested in both residential and commercial property. You can find out the various services he has to offer by visiting his website.

The Benefits of Using a Broker

Although we live in an age of do-it-yourself projects and services, there are times when it definitely pays to hire a professional. When it comes to hiring a real estate broker, there are clear advantages to having the experience and expertise of a broker working in your favor.

The world of commercial real estate and residential property investment, can be complex, and it is often more difficult for the average layman to understand the most efficient way of settling issues that may arise. In this case, real estate brokers bring an extensive knowledge base, savvy, and the art of skilled negotiation to the table. Brokers are in a better position to communicate their clients’ needs and interests more effectively, thereby making them the perfect liaison and advocate in complex transactions and disputes.

Clients who are seeking to purchase property are often benefited by the inside knowledge real estate brokers often have. This may include knowledge of newly available properties that have not yet been advertised. Property buyers who are alerted early to properties that are of interest will have a large advantage as they may be in a position to make arrangements to purchase the property before it hits the market.

There are also cases in which it simply makes sense to hire a broker because doing so costs nothing. Many property owners who are seeking tenants offer to cover the brokerage fees of qualified tenants with good, stable credit. In this case, the tenant receives the benefit of working with a real estate expert free of charge while the property owner is often able to lease his property much sooner.

In instances in which a party to a real estate contract fails to uphold the terms of the agreement or a renter or buyer simply does not have an in depth understanding of real estate, having a broker can make the process much easier and less stressful. For information about brokerage services in Annapolis, visit Evans Law.