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Baltimore's ground rent mess

A series by Fred Schulte and June Arney of The (Baltimore) Sun reveals that an archaic law is creating problems for thousands of Baltimore residents. "Baltimore's arcane system of ground rents, widely viewed as a harmless vestige of colonial law, is increasingly being used by some investors to seize homes or extract large fees from people who often are ignorant of the loosely regulated process." They evaluated computer records from the Baltimore City Circuit court, identifying nearly 4,000 lawsuits filed by ground rent holders against homeowners since 2000. Maryland laws seem to favor the ground rent holders. Since 2000, 521 houses have been awarded to the ground rent holders for unpaid or delinquent rent -- an incredibly disproportionate settlement in relationship to the debt owed. As some entrepreneurs use ground rent laws for their own profit, public officials call for reforms.

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