Both the Senate and House of Delegates are considering legislation that would preclude a condominium developer from including provisions in the community’s governing documents or the sales contracts that limit the ability of the council of unit owners or individual unit owners to bring claims against the developer for construction defects. Senate Bill 258 and House Bill 77 are similar to legislation that was introduced and passed in the House during the 2017 legislative session. The proposed new law would cover 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. (more…)
Section 11-133 of the Maryland Condominium Act gives a council of unit owners the right to terminate leases, management contracts, employment contracts, and other contracts entered into by the developer during the period that the developer had control of a majority of the votes in the council. However, that right of termination must be exercised within three (3) years from the date on which majority control of the council passed from the developer to the unit owners. Termination of such contracts, if timely exercised, is effective upon thirty (30) days written notice of termination. Grants to any governmental entity or public utility are not subject to termination. Also, the right of termination exists only for residential, and not commercial, condominiums.
By a vote of 136-0, the Maryland House of Delegates approved a bill to protect condominium owners’ rights with regard to bringing construction defect claims against the project’s developer. House Bill 676 would prevent condominium developers from limiting the ability of the council of unit owners and individual unit owners to bring claims for building issues. The proposed law would prevent developers from including certain provisions in condominium governing documents or contracts of sale that act as an impediment to claims alleging the failure of the developer to comply with (1) applicable building codes; (2) plans and specifications for the project approved by the local governing authority; (3) manufacturer’s installation instructions for building products used the condominium; and (4) warranty provisions under Sections 10-203 and 11-131 of the Real Property Article.
As to such claims, under the proposed law, the developer would be precluded from including provisions that: (a) shorten the statute of limitations for filing claims; (b) waive application of the “discovery rule” for purposes of determining when a claim accrued; (c) require the council or a unit owner in an arbitration proceeding to assert a claim within a period shorter than the applicable statute of limitations; or (d) operate to prevent a council or unit owner from filing a law suit, initiating arbitration proceedings, or otherwise asserting a claim within the applicable statute of limitations.
A companion bill is pending in the Maryland Senate (SB 670).
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 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 in “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.
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.”