Amendment To Maryland Condominium Act Expands Council’s Right To Enter Units

The 2012 session of the Maryland General Assembly resulted in an amendment to the Condominium Act regarding the circumstances under which a council of unit owners may enter a condominium unit.  Section 11-125 of the Act previously provided that a council of unit owners, or its authorized designee, has “an irrevocable right and an easement” to enter units for the purpose of making repairs, where the work is “reasonably necessary for public safety or to prevent damage to other portions of the condominium.”  The 2012 amendment, House Bill 126 (Chapter 101) expands this authority to also permit entry to “investigate damage” in addition to actually undertaking repairs.  A proposal to remove the requirement that entry be limited to circumstances in which it is necessary for public safety or to prevent other damage was deleted from the final bill.  It is still required that the council make “a reasonable effort to give notice” to the unit owner that the unit will be entered for purpose of investigation or repair; except that notice is not required “in cases involving manifest danger to public safety or property.”  The amendment takes effect on October 1, 2012.

2 Comments


  1. Does the “right to entry” provided for in the Condo Act include a right to conduct “fishing expeditions” to learn whether damage exists? Or must management have a legitimate reason to believe damage exists in units being entered?

    Our board of directors has been concerned about mice, which have been occasionally reported over the past 15 months by several condo unit owners in our building (which has over 100 condos). The owners who reported mice have already had their units’ holes plugged. The board has said they’re contracting with a pest management company to inspect EVERY unit to look for holes that could admit mice–regardless of whether the units’ owners grant permission. Since most owners haven’t reported mice, it’s reasonable to believe that at most a small fraction of the units could be contributing to the mice problem. That implies many of the units that will be entered have no damage that needs to be inspected or repaired.

    The pest inspector reported in January that he observed many places where mice can enter the building from outside. Those gaps are in the common areas that management is expected to maintain, and it makes sense to plug those gaps. I think it’s unreasonable to assume another source of mice is that some owners have chosen to secretly harbor mice in their units (rather than choosing to report or exterminate or block out their mice). Is that really a legally valid basis for entering every unit in the building?

    Our condominium is in Montgomery County, which has a county health agency capable of declaring a health emergency. The health agency must obtain a court order before they may enter a residence without the owner’s permission. If the mice are truly a health emergency, the health agency could declare it so. The health agency has been tasked by the government to decide such situations. Our board and management include no medical experts, yet they’ve been bypassing the health agency; they’ve asserted the board may claim a health emergency on their own and don’t need a court order to allow entry. The board has been discussing the mice situation for a year and calling it a health emergency for at least 6 months. It seems to me that a true emergency that would justify entry by association management, such as flooding, is a “manifest danger” situation in which there isn’t enough time to get a more qualified public agency to decide what to do. The board has had plenty of time to ask the county health agency to act but has chosen not to ask. In this mice situation, don’t they need to get the health agency to concur and get a court order, in order to inspect units?

    At the January board meeting, one of the board members mentioned that the pest inspectors will be asked to report any other issues they may spy while looking for holes. Also, the board said the contract will be long term, with periodic re-inspections of all units.

    Is this really what the Condo Act intends? Doesn’t it reek of an unlawful fishing expedition?

    I hope you will have time to reply.
    Best wishes,
    Steve


    1. Assuming that your condominium is in Maryland, a statutory right of entry exists on behalf of a council of unit owners that provides an easement for entry, but only to make repairs, and only if the repairs appear reasonably necessary for public safety or to prevent damage to other portions of the condominium. Any further right of entry is strictly defined by what is authorized in the condominium’s governing documents, or what is provided in duly adopted rules and regulations. Accordingly, it is impossible to fully evaluate the council’s actions in your case without reviewing the applicable provisions of those documents. That being said, your suggestion that there be some legitimate reason for any intrusion is quite valid, particularly since there does not seem to be any specific repair specification.

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