As previously reported, during the 2022 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed new legislation requiring all condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives to undertake regular reserve studies of common area components. The Governor did not sign the bill, but it became law under Art. II, Sec. 17(c) of the Maryland Constitution, which provides that a bill send to the Governor becomes law if the Governor does not veto the bill with 30 days of its presentment. Under the new law, which takes effect on October 1, 2022, a community that has had a reserve study conducted on or after October 1, 2018 must have that reserve study updated within five years from the date to that study, and every five years thereafter. A community that has not had a reserve study on or after October 1, 2018, must undertake one no later than October 1, 2023, and that study must also be updated every five years thereafter.
The tragic collapse of the Champlain Towers Condominium in Surfside Florida, and the horrific consequences to residents and their families, will, no doubt, continue to be the subject of multiple news reports and long-term investigations. And it will be some time before we learn the true cause of the disaster, and how it might have been prevented. But the fundamental issue — deteriorated building conditions — is something about which all condominium unit owners and property managers need to be especially conscientious. Previously, I have written about the high importance of regular building evaluations by competent consultants. As a practical matter, these studies are necessary in order for an association to have information needed to develop accurate budgets for maintenance and reserves. Of equal importance to conducting a building survey, however, is properly allocating funds to address any conditions that the report identifies. The fact that the Maryland Condominium Act requires that condominiums adopt annual budgets that specifically include reserves and capital items indicates that the association must have a detailed understanding of its buildings if the specified budget items are to present a meaningful picture of building maintenance issues. The fact that the Condominium Act, and most condominium governing documents, makes the council of unit owners responsible for maintenance, repair and replacement of the common elements creates potential liability where due diligence as to building conditions is not properly undertaken. Most often, the consequences of failing to adhere to good maintenance practices are financial — resulting in expensive repair projects and burdensome special assessments. But as Champlain Towers demonstrates, some building conditions can lead to far more dreadful results.
Condominium Resale Disclosure Requirements – Be Sure You Have the Most Recent Version of Section 11-135
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.
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.
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 41 now pending in the Maryland General Assembly would require condominiums, homeowner associations and cooperative housing corporations to register annually with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. Similar to a bill that was filed during the 2016 session but did not pass, the proposed law would require registration information that includes the name and contact information for each officer, board member, and property manager. along with such other information as the Department might require. The bill proposes a $3 registration fee, and a $50 fine for failing to register.