The Maryland House of Delegates, by a vote of 99- 39, has passed House Bill 41, which would require residential  condominiums, homeowner associations and cooperative housing corporations to register annually with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. The proposed law would require registration information that includes the name and contact information for the property manager, or, if the community does not employ a property manager, a person designated to answer inquiries on behalf of the community.  Original language requiring the names and contact information for each officer and board member was removed in the final version of the bill.  Also deleted from the final version was a provision that would have permitted the Department to require additional information.  The final version of bill gives the Department authority to establish a registration fee not to exceed $10 per year. The bill proposes a$50 fine for failing to register.

House Bill 34 in the Maryland General Assembly would give homeowner associations the right to collect a fee relating to inspections during the resale process.  The proposed law would entitle an HOA to charge “a reasonable fee not to exceed $100 for an inspection of the low owner’s lot if required.”  Under Section 11B-106 of the Maryland Homeowner Association Act, sellers are required to provide certain information to prospective purchasers, much of which is often provided by the Association.  Under the statute, the Association can charge “a reasonable fee” for providing this information, that does not exceed its actual cost, up to a maximum of $250.  House Bill 34 would add an additional fee charge for costs relating to an inspection of the property as part of the resale process.  The Bill passed the House of Delegates by an 85 – 44 vote, and is now pending in the Senate.

Senate Bill 1115, filed in the Maryland General Assembly, would require homeowner associations to adopt a written policy if it permits payment plans for homeowner fees and other charges.  The new law would add Section 11-114.1 to the Maryland Homeowner Association Act, and provide that, if a homeowner association allows members to pay fees and other charges pursuant to a payment plan, the association must develop a written policy that (1) establishes the qualifications needed to participate in a payment plan; and (2) discloses the terms and conditions of the payment plan.  The bill would further require the written policy to be transmitted to each homeowner within 30 days of its adoption.

Senate Bill 529 in the Maryland General Assembly would authorize condominiums to restrict the use of common elements by unit owners who are delinquent in paying assessments.  The proposed law would add new subsection 11-104(e) to the Maryland Condominium Act to provide that the bylaws may contain a provision permitting such restrictions.  Under the bill, the restriction on use of the common elements may be imposed on a delinquent unit owner who is not in a payment plan, is delinquent on a payment plan, or has defaulted on a previous payment plan.  The law would specifically allow condominium bylaws to be amended to include such a provision.

Senate Bill 809 and House Bill 1369, now pending in the Maryland General Assembly, would require a condominium council of unit owners to provide at least 30-days notice to all unit owners of any sale, including a tax sale, of a common element.  The bills would add new Subsection 11-108(d) to the Maryland Condominium Act.  The legislation would also add new Subsection 14-804(e) to the Tax Article to provide that a council of unit owners must give at least 30-days notice to the unit owners when a tax lien has been imposed on a common element.

The proposed law would create a similar notice requirement for homeowner associations with respect to a sale of any common area in the community by adding new Section 11B-106.2 to the Maryland Homeowner Association Act. Proposed new Subsection 14-804(e) of the Tax Article would also require notice by a homeowner association when a tax lien is imposed on any common area.

House Bill 789, now pending in the Maryland General Assembly, would reduce the percentage of affirmative votes required to amend condominium bylaws.  Under Section 11-104(e) of the Maryland Condominium Act, condominium bylaws may only be amended upon a vote of two-thirds (66 2/3 percent) of the unit owners.  The proposed legislation would reduce this to 55 percent.  Significantly, it would also permit the bylaws themselves to establish an even lower percentage.  Additionally, the bill would limit the voting to members is “good standing, ” which is defined as not being more than 90 days in arrears as to assessments, and not in violation of any provision of the declaration, bylaws or rules and regulations.  This, of course, could have the affect of further reducing the number of votes required for a bylaw amendment.

The proposed legislation contains similar provisions to reduce the percentage vote required for bylaw amendments under Section 11B-116 of the Maryland Homeowners Association Act.

House Bill 651, now pending in the Maryland General Assembly, would require condominiums and homeowner associations to conduct reserve studies of the common elements and common areas.

It is proposed that new Section 11-109.4 be added to the Maryland Condominium Act, and require that, within 90-days of the meeting at which the unit owners assume control of the council, a reserve study must be conducted of the common elements, and the condominium must conduct a reserve study every five years thereafter.  Condominiums established before October 1, 2017 that had a reserve study conducted on or after October 1, 2013 are required to undertake an additional reserve study five years after the previous one, and every five years thereafter.  Condominiums established before October 1, 2017 that have not had a reserve study undertaken on or after October 1, 2013 must conduct a reserve study on or before October 1, 2018, and every five years thereafter.

New Section 11B-112.3 would be added to the Maryland Homeowner Association Act so as to provide similar reserve study requirements for the common areas in homeowner associations.

I will be speaking today (March 9) at the Maryland Construction Law Institute seminar at the Ecker Business Training Center, 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia, Maryland 21046.  My subject we be “Condominium and New Home Warranties and Rights of Action.”

House Bill 496, now pending in the Maryland General Assembly, would give express authority to Homeowner and Community Associations in Baltimore County to bring a court action seeking relief from or abatement of an alleged nuisance.  Under current Section 14-125 of the Real Property Article, “community associations” have authority to seek injunctive or other relief in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County for abatement of a nuisance.  However, a community association” is limited to a “non-profit corporation.”   The proposed legislation would broadly expand the definition of a “community association” to include a “non-profit association, corporation, or other organization.”  Current law also requires that “community associations” be comprised of “at least 20% of the total number of households as members, with a minimum of 40 or more individual households as defined by specific geographic boundaries in the bylaws or charter of the community association.”  The proposed legislation would do away with these requirements, and simply require that the association, corporation or other organization be “composed of residents of a community defined by specific geographic boundaries.”  As such, it could be read to apply to condominium councils of unit owners as well as homeowner associations.

House Bill 500, now pending the Maryland General Assembly, provides for a proposed amendment to Section 11-104 of the Maryland Condominium Act that would allow a condominium’s bylaws to include “a restriction or prohibition on smoking tobacco products within the units or in the common elements.”  The proposed legislation would also amend Section 11-111 to authorize a council of unit owners to adopt a rule imposing such a restriction or prohibition.

The bill also would also add new Section 11B-111.7 to the Maryland Homeowners Association Act, which would permit a homeowner association to “include in its declaration, bylaws, rules, or recorded covenants and restrictions a provision that restricts or prohibits the smoking of tobacco products in any multi-unit dwelling or in the common areas.  A “multi-unit dwelling” is defined in the bill as “a town house, a row house, or any other individually owned dwelling unit that shares a common wall, floor, or ceiling with another individually owned dwelling unit.”

The proposed legislation would also amend Maryland Real Property Code Section 8-208 to permit landlords to include in written residential leases “a restriction or prohibition on smoking tobacco products within the dwelling unit or elsewhere on the premises.”