Governor Hogan has signed into law legislation adopted by the General Assembly during 2019 session that deals with the voting rights of developers in homeowner associations where not all lots have been sold. Senate Bill 305, which was passed unanimously by both Houses and signed by the Governor on April 30, 2019, amends Section 11B-111.7 of the Maryland Homeowners Association Act, and addresses the votes to which a developer is entitled with respect to whether lots have been subdivided and recorded. Of course, any lot that has been sold must have first been subdivided and recorded. The issue has been the developer’s votes on unsold lots that have not been subdivided and recorded. Under current law, which will be changed when the new law takes effect on October 1, 2019, until all of the lots have been subdivided and recorded, a developer is entitled to the number of votes equal to the number of unsold lots that have been subdivided and recorded but remain unsold. There is no vote for lots that have not yet been subdivided and recorded. The new law provides that, once all of the lots have been subdivided and recorded, the developer is entitled to one vote per lot that remains unsold. But, until all of the lots have been subdivided and recorded, the developer’s votes are to be as provided in the governing documents; i.e., the governing documents control until every lot has been subdivided and recorded. So developers will have control of determining the number of votes to which they are entitled by addressing the issue when the governing documents are prepared. Arguably, however, if the governing documents are silent on the issue, the developer gets no votes on unsold lots until each and every lot is subdivided and recorded.
The following House of Delegates bills in 2019 session of the Maryland General Assembly passed in a vote of the full House but failed to get out of committee in the Senate:
HB207 concerning members qualified to vote to amend bylaws.
HB249 concerning responsibilities for insurance deductibles.
HB392 concerning dispute resolution procedures.
HB655 concerning denial of rental licenses for units with assessments in arrears.
HB825 concerning rights of holders of mortgages and deeds of trust in connection with declaration amendments.
HB826 concerning unit owner’s installation of electric vehicle charging equipment.
HB1037 concerning council of unit owner meeting requirements.
Senate Bill 374 and House Bill 250, pending in the Maryland General Assembly, would expand the portion of a condominium’s lien that has a priority over a first mortgage or first deed of trust. Under the current provisions of Section 11-110 of the Maryland Condominium Act, a portion of a condominium’s lien for delinquent assessments has a priority consisting of four months of assessments limited to a maximum of $1,200. Additionally, it is limited to regular assessments only, and my not include (1) interest; (2) costs of collection; (3) late charges; (4) fines; (5) attorney’s fees; (6) special assessments; or (7) “any other costs or sums due under the declaration or bylaws of the condominium or as provided under any contract, law or court order.” The proposed law would expand the priority to six months of assessments, eliminate the maximum limitation, and allow inclusion of the list of seven items that are now expressly precluded.
By a vote of 139 – 0, the Maryland House of Delegates has passed legislation that would make condominium unit owners responsible for a larger amount of the insurance deductible when the condominium’s policy pays for damage from an issue that originates in the owner’s unit. Under Section 11-114, a condominium must maintain property insurance on the entire property, including the common elements and the units, except for improvements and betterments installed in the units by the owners. Where damage originates from a component of a unit, the liability of the unit owner is limited to the insurance deductible under the condominium’s policy up to a maximum of $5,000. HB 249 would double the unit owner responsibility to $10,000. The bill also adds clarifying language with regard to damage that is a common expense. The current law provides that any damage originating from the common elements is a common expense. HB 249 provides that this also would include damage originating from “an event outside of the condominium units and the common elements.” The bill now moves onto the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Legislation pending in the Maryland House of Delegates seeks to supplement a prior revision that applied the percentage required for approval of amendments of condominium bylaws to only the number of unit owners “in good standing” — meaning unit owners not more than 90 days in arrears in payment of assessments of other charges. — rather than to the total number of owners. A change to the Section 11-104 of the Maryland Condominium Act adopted during 2017 provides that, notwithstanding what the bylaws themselves require, the bylaws may be amended by the affirmative vote of 60% of the unit owners in good standing, “or a lower percentage if required by the bylaws.” This had the effect of reducing the number of votes required to the extent that some unit owners were not “in good standing.” House Bill 207 would go further and provide that any lower percentage contained in the bylaws would also be applied only to “unit owners in good standing.” In other words, if the bylaws call for a percentage lower than 60%, that lower percentage requirement would also be determined only by the number of “unit owners in good standing” and not to the entire number of owners. The bill also would affect homeowners associations by making the same amendment Section 11B-116 of the Maryland Homeowners Association Act.
House Bill 069 and Senate Bill 379, now pending in the Maryland General Assembly, would apply the condominium implied warranty from a developer to all common elements, and not just those enumerated in the statute, along with any component that the council of unit owners is required to maintain, repair or replace, regardless of whether it is defined as a common element in the governing documents. Under the current provisions of Section 11-131(d) of the Maryland Condominium Act, there is an implied warranty from a condominium developer to a council of unit owners, which applies to “the roof, foundation, external and supporting walls, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, and other structural elements.” The proposed law would establish that the implied warranty applies “to all common elements, including” those listed in the current law. Additionally, the bills propose that the implied warranty is applicable “to any portion of the condominium that the council of unit owners is required to maintain, repair, or replace under the [governing documents] regardless of whether the portion of the condominium is designated as a unit or a common element.” (more…)
House Bill 68 and Senate Bill 379, now pending in the Maryland General Assembly, would prohibit condominium developers from including language in the governing documents that would limit the power of a council of unit owners to bring suit. Section 11-109(d)(4) of the Maryland Condominium Act presently gives a council of unit owners authority “[t]o sue and be sued, complain and defend, or intervene in litigation or administrative proceedings in its own name on behalf of itself or two or more unit owners on matters affecting the condominium.” The proposed legislation would confirm this authority “notwithstanding any provision in the declaration, bylaws, ,or other instrument made by a developer in accordance with this title.” The pending bills would, however, permit the developer to include a requirement for mediation or arbitration of any claims brought by the council against the developer. Similarly with regard to the authority of a council of unit owners under Section 11-109(d)(19) to enforce the Section 11-131 implied warranties, the proposed legislation would preclude limits on this power, while permitting the governing documents to provide for mediation or arbitration of such warranty claims.
Here is a link to my opinion/commentary in today’s Baltimore Sun: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-op-02131-drug-war-20190211-story.html
A bill introduced in the Maryland House of Delegates would increase the number of months of unpaid condominium assessments that have a priority over mortgages in the event of foreclosure. HB 250 would amend Section 11-110(f) of the Maryland Condominium Act to provide that six months of unpaid assessments for common expenses have a priority over a first mortgage or first deed of trust. The current law provides that four months of unpaid assessments have priority. The proposed law would also significantly expend the charges that can be included in the priority lien. Under the existing provisions, the priority portion of a condominium’s lien may not include (1) interest; (2) costs of collection; (3) late charges; (4) fines; (5) attorney’s fees; (6) special assessments; and (7) any other costs or sums due under the declaration or bylaws, or as provided by any contract, law or court order. HB 250 would entirely reverse this limitation, and provide that all seven of these items may be included in the portion of a condominium’s lien that has a priority.
The bill has been assigned to the Environmental and Transportation Committee, and will have its first hearing on February 12, 2019 at 1:00 pm.
As I have previously written, the information contained in condominium resale disclosure certificates must be carefully reviewed for accuracy, so as to avoid exposing the community to liability for misleading information that does not present a clear picture of the financial obligations that may await a prospective purchaser. Indeed, in MRA Property Management, Inc., et al. v. Armstrong, the Maryland Court of Appeals established that provisions of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act apply to the information contained in a condominium resale certificate, and a council of unit owners and property manager can be liable for unfair and deceptive trade practices if the information has a tendency to mislead the purchaser, even though they are not party to the sales contract, and even if they have otherwise complied with the condominium resale disclosure requirements contained in Section 11-135 of the Maryland Condominium Act. In light of amendments to Section 11-135 enacted after the Court decision during the 2016 legislative session, it is important that councils of unit owners have the most recent version available. Be certain that the version you are using refers to the inclusion of the amendments enacted under Chapter 735, Acts 2016 that were effective as of October 1, 2016.