Both houses of the Maryland General Assembly have passed legislation that would prevent condominium developers from including provisions in the project’s governing documents that limit the ability of unit owners to bring claims for construction defects.  Senate Bill 258 and House Bill 77 would protect claims relating to the developer’s failure to comply with applicable building codes; approved plans and specifications; product manufacturer’s installation instructions; or the implied warranties provided under Maryland law.  The legislation would prevent a developer from including language in the condominium’s governing documents or in the purchase agreements that (1) shortens the applicable statute of limitations; (2) waives the application of the discovery rule or other means of determining the claim’s accrual date; (3) requires that the claim be submitted to arbitration within a period shorter than the applicable statute of limitations; or (4) operates to prevent the assertion of a claim within the applicable statute of limitations.

There has been a trend among condominium developers to include language in the governing documents and sales contracts that changes the laws that are normally applicable as to when a claim accrues and when it must be brought.  The identical bills passed by the General Assembly would counter this trend by adding new Section 11-134.1 to the Maryland Condominium Act.  The House vote was 137-0, and the Senate vote was 43-2.

 

 

House Bill 997 in the Maryland General Assembly would require a developer, upon transfer of control of the project, to provide the council of unit owners with a reserve study prepared by a “certified” engineer.  The bill would amend Section11-132 of the Maryland Condominium Act to also require that the developer provide “a reserve account containing funds equal to at least five times the annual funding amount recommended in the current reserve study report.”

The House of Delegates of the Maryland General Assembly has passed legislation that authorizes a condominium declaration to provide for the suspension of  the use of parking or recreational facility common elements by a unit owner that is more than 60 days in arrears in the payment of assessments.  House Bill 575 would amend Section 11-103 of the Maryland Condominium Act by adding new subsection (d).  The measure would require the condominium to provide the delinquent unit owner with 10 days notice, within which the unit owner may pay the delinquent assessment or request a hearing to contest the suspension.  The proposed law also allows an amendment to a declaration to add such a suspension provision with the approval of only 60% of the unit owners, regardless of what super majority is otherwise called for in the governing documents.  The bill is now under consideration in the Senate.

House Bill 564 in the Maryland General Assembly would require a developer, upon the conveyance of 25% of the units or lots, to appoint at least one board member to the association’s governing body who is a unit owner or lot owner, and not affiliated with the developer.  The bill would also require the association’s governing body to meet at least two times each year, and would require the developer to provide the members of the board with certain information relating to any bond provided to a governmental authority in connection with the project.  The legislation would also require that the books and records of the association be kept separate and apart from those of the developer.

House Bill 179 filed in the Maryland General Assembly would reduce the percentage of votes required to amend a condominium declaration.  Under current law, as provided in Section 11-103(c) of the Maryland Condominium Act, “80 percent of the unit owners listed on the current roster” must consent to an amendment of the declaration.  The proposed bill would reduce the required percentage to 60 percent.  Moreover, it would potentially have the effect of further reducing the number of affirmative votes needed by changing the voting pool from including “the unit owners listed on the current roster” to including only “unit owners in good standing.”  “Good standing” is defined in the bill as “not being more than 90 days in arrears in the payment of any assessment or charge due to the condominium.”  Accordingly, unit owners who do not qualify as being in “good standing” would be excluded from the pool of voters, of which 60 percent would be need to approve an amendment.

Both the Senate and House of Delegates are considering legislation that would preclude a condominium developer from including provisions in the community’s governing documents or the sales contracts that limit the ability of the council of unit owners or individual unit owners to bring claims against the developer for construction defects.  Senate Bill 258 and House Bill 77 are similar to legislation that was introduced and passed in the House during the 2017 legislative session.  The proposed new law would cover claims relating to the developer’s failure to comply with applicable building codes; approved plans and specifications; product manufacturer’s installation instructions; or the implied warranties provided under Maryland law.  The legislation would prevent a developer from including language in the condominium’s governing documents or in the purchase agreements that (1) shortens the applicable statute of limitations; (2) waives the application of the discovery rule or other means of determining the claim’s accrual date; (3) requires that the claim be submitted to arbitration within a period shorter than the applicable statute of limitations; or (4) operates to prevent the assertion of a claim within the applicable statute of limitations. (more…)

The United States District Court for the District of Maryland has denied a motion to dismiss filed on behalf of a developer, and allowed claims of a property owner’s association to proceed that concern actions taken while the board was under the control of the developer’s agents.  In Greenspring Quarry Association, Inc. v. Beazer Homes Corp., Civil No. JKB-17-646, the association’s suit relates to charges for common area maintenance costs.  The assoication alleged that the developer was to be responsible for such charges until title transferred to the association, and claimed that, during the period that the developer controlled the board, the management company had been instructed to bill the association for common area maintenance for several years before title was transferred.  The court denied the developer’s motion to dismiss all claims, finding that there were sufficient allegations of an independent duty of care and reasonable reliance on the representations made, and that the claims were stated with sufficient particularity.  Notably, the court found that the developer’s agents on the board assumed fiduciary duties to the association when they occupied the board seats.

Section 11-133 of the Maryland Condominium Act gives a council of unit owners the right to terminate leases, management contracts, employment contracts, and other contracts entered into by the developer during the period that the developer had control of a majority of the votes in the council.  However, that right of termination must be exercised within three (3) years from the date on which majority control of the council passed from the developer to the unit owners.  Termination of such contracts, if timely exercised, is effective upon thirty (30) days written notice of termination.  Grants to any governmental entity or public utility are not subject to termination.  Also, the right of termination exists only for residential, and not commercial, condominiums.