Get Off of my Lawn! - Trespassing in Maine 

I recently read Ken Ilguna's new book This Land Is Our Land: How We Lost the Right to Roam and How to Take It Back. In an extremely oversimplified nutshell, the book argues for public rights to recreate on private open land because some European countries do it and it's great. I don't necessarily agree with all the author's conclusions. However, it does present interesting questions to think about in the context of Maine law. First, what rights do Mainers have to recreate on privately owned land? Second, what rights do landowners have to enforce their rights to exclude? Lastly, what rights to landowners have in the event of damage or invasions of privacy?  

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Real Estate - Back to Basics: Title Insurance

Real estate isn't cheap. Whenever investing significant sums of money into an asset, you want to protect your investment. This why car purchasers often buy extended warranties. They want to be sure their vehicle will last long enough to make their purchase a worth it. Just like warranties and other types of insurance policies that provide protection when the item is damaged or destroyed, title insurance protects your ownership of the land. 

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Real Estate - Back to Basics: Deeds

"How do I change the name on the deed of my house?" and "How do I take someone’s name off the deed?” These are two questions I hear a lot. What they really mean to ask is, "how do I transfer my land to someone else?" A deed is a written document that transfers title of real estate from one person (or legal entity) to another. In order to transfer the property to someone else, a new written deed needs to be prepared.  

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Partition Actions in Maine

Sharing ownership of real estate can be difficult. Owning real estate comes with benefits, such as use or income, and burdens, such as expenses and maintenance. It can be all too common that joint owners of real estate do not see eye to eye on the allocation of the benefits and burdens of property ownership. Therefore, a common recommendation of attorneys is to use some form of trust or limited liability company to provide a set of guidelines for shared ownership. Often, when multiple people inherit one plot of land the issues of shared use and management never get fully considered.  

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Nonconformity in Land Use

Nonconformity is an issue that has come up quite a bit in my time practicing land use law in Maine. It is also a concept that commonly leads to a lot of confusion. Nonconformity refers to a condition on property that does not comply with the land use regulations in place. Nonconformity is important because, generally, nonconforming conditions are allowed to continue after an ordinance is enacted rendering the use, lot, or structuring nonconforming. This is commonly referred to as “grandfathering”.

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Important Considerations when Granting or Acquiring Easements

When buying or selling real estate, the transaction often requires granting an easement to provide access, either physically or to utilities like water or electricity.  Briefly, an easement is the right of one property owner to use another's property for a specific purpose.  Commonly, easements are in the form of a right of way that allows the owners of a neighboring lot to pass over another’s land to access their own.  An easement could also allow placement of a well or access to a public water supply. Alternatively, a negative easement could provide that the owner of a lot will actually refrain from using his or her property in certain ways.  For example, a view easement could limit the height of any buildings to protect the easement holder's views.   

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Engage Early When Opposing Real Estate Developments

You have just moved into your dream house in what you believe to be the perfect community.  Everything is great for a while.  A few years later you receive a notice about a development being proposed in your community.  Maybe it’s just a project that you think will greatly impact your life in the community.  Maybe it’s a proposal to build a strip mall next to your home.  Now you have a choice to make.  Do you just sit back and hope the town planning board does, what you think is, the right thing?  Do you chain yourself to a tree? Do you try to stop or, at least, alter the project by getting involved in the approval process?  I would suggest that getting involved is your best bet. 

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Municipal Land Use Violations: Landowners Can Unknowingly be Exposed to Enforcement Liability

"It's my property, I can do what I want" is a common statement made by some landowners. With the increase in land use regulation and zoning, it has increasingly become a falsehood.  Land use regulations greatly impact how real property is used and can often prohibit seemingly harmless actions.  For example, some Portland landowners are facing enforcement actions for renting out their property on Airbnb.com.  

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