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
Raymond D. Burke
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.
Governor Larry Hogan has signed into law House Bill 575, which permits a condominium declaration to provide for the suspension of the use of parking or recreational facility common elements by a unit owner who is more that sixty (60) days in arrears in the payment of assessments. The new law, which takes effect on October 1, 2018, will add new Section 11-103(d) to the Maryland Condominium Act, requiring that, prior to any suspension of privileges, the council of unit owners must first send a demand letter giving the unit owner ten (10) days in which to pay the arrearage, or request a hearing to contest the suspension. If a hearing is requested, the council must provide notice and hold the hearing before a suspension of privileges may be implemented. The new law further provides that a condominium declaration may be amended to add or repeal such a provision for suspension of privileges by the affirmative vote of sixty percent (60%) of the unit owners. House Bill 575 was passed unanimously by both the House of Delegates and State Senate.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has approved a new law intended to prevent condominium developers from including provisions in the project’s governing documents and sales contracts that limit the ability of the unit owners to bring claims for construction defects. The provisions of Senate Bill 258 and House Bill 77 will now become law as of October 1, 2018. New Section 11-134.1 of the Maryland Condominium Act protects 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 new law prohibits 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. The new law expressly only applies prospectively, and does not affect any governing documents recorded or contracts executed prior to October 1, 2018.
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.