Real Estate Wonk: Ground rent tally: about 85,000

From the Real Estate Wonk blog:

IIt's looking like Maryland has about 85,000 ground rents.

The state Department of Assessments and Taxation is still processing all the last-minute registrations, but it's closing in to the point that it can offer that approximate figure. (It had 70,000 processed the day of the deadline.)

Some registrations have missing information or errors, and the state will send letters to the owners giving them 30 days to respond with corrections. It's projecting that the work will be completely done by Dec. 21.

When the assessors announce that they're all done, you'll know for certain if a property has ground rent -- meaning that the land is owned separately from the house on it -- by looking the address up on the state's property lookup site. See if there's a link to "ground rent registration" near the top right corner.

Three years ago, the state estimated that there were about 115,000 ground rents in existence. Does that mean 30,000 went "poof" on Sept. 30 because their owners forgot or didn't realize they had to register? Well, no, since some of the residents renting the land beneath their homes eliminated their ground rent by buying it out.

But other ground rents did disappear. Robert E. Young, acting deputy director of the assessments department, said he got calls from people with one ground rent apiece who knew they had to register and procrastinated -- until it was too late -- and from people who didn't know they had to register.

"But I did not receive a large number of those [calls]," Young said. "We're at 85,000. That means a lot of people did know."

Charles J. Muskin, whose grandfather's estate included about 300 ground rents, only registered two-thirds of them. (He said he'd been trying to sell -- to no avail -- and was left with too little time to collect the required information for them all.) Muskin said he frequently hears from people who owned small numbers of ground rents and didn't know registration was required.

Muskin sued over the requirement, contending that it was an unconstitutional taking of property. A Baltimore judge ruled in favor of the state last week, saying the registration rule didn't violate the constitution because it does not "retroactively create or eliminate property rights, but instead, prospectively conditions the continued ownership of ground rents on compliance with the requirement of registration." Muskin said he would appeal. "No matter who won, there was going to be an appeal," he said.

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