October 17, 2023
May 23, 2022
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed an important legal reform supported by Gilbert LLP into law this week that provides valuable protections for Maryland’s most vulnerable property owners. The Real Property – Partition of Property law closes loopholes that have permitted real estate speculators to force joint tenancy property owners to sell their land at auction at a fraction of the fair market value, oftentimes depriving families of generational real estate wealth and property that has significant cultural, historical, economic, and personal significance. The law now provides property owners with the right to buy out any co-tenant wishing to sell rather than having the entire property forcibly sold at auction and requires any sale to be conducted on the open market and at fair market value—as real estate owners with greater resources and access to real estate and legal advisors commonly do—thereby preserving the rights of every owner and depriving speculators of their unfair advantages under prior law. Although African-American and other disadvantaged property owners were most negatively impacted under the outdated partition laws, this law protects all Maryland property owners and permits them to better utilize, develop, and/or protect their land, thereby benefitting the entire state.
With this enactment, Maryland becomes the twenty-first jurisdiction to adopt a version of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, a model law drafted over a decade ago by MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” recipient and Boston College Law School Professor Thomas Mitchell, who has spent his career reforming inequitable property laws. The model act was promulgated by the Uniform Law Commission, which supported the Maryland bill, as it has done in the other jurisdictions where it has passed, and in still others where enactment efforts are pending.
Gilbert LLP partner Richard Shore and associate Rachel Jennings helped assemble and worked with a coalition of public interest, legal, real estate, land use, environmental, and other organizations and individuals to pursue this important reform, testified in favor of the legislation in the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates, and worked with the sponsors in the Maryland legislature, State Senator Malcolm Augustine and State Delegate Sandy Rosenberg, to support their efforts. Gilbert LLP is supporting similar legislation in the District of Columbia, where a bill is pending in the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety and is expected to be reported favorably to the full D.C. Council in the near future.
Gilbert LLP is a Washington-based law firm specializing in litigation and strategic risk management, insurance recovery and complex dispute resolution.