2015 Maryland Legislative Session Heats Up

by Tom Schild

Despite the recent arctic air sweeping through Maryland, the 2015 Maryland legislative session is heating up.

After a slow start in January with many new legislators and a new Governor taking office, a rush of bills were introduced in February.  Among the bills concerning governance of Maryland condos, coops and HOAs are proposals to (1) prevent developers from limiting condominium statutory warranty rights; (2) require access to common areas for political candidates; and (3) require homeowner associations to provide resale disclosure information and cap the fee charged by condos and HOAs for providing resale disclosure information.

A proposal to change the housing cooperative law adopted in 2014 would eliminate a 3-month waiting period before a housing coop could initiate legal action to evict a coop member for not paying assessments.

Other legislation under review would restrict the ability to collect court judgments for delinquent assessments. Although not limited to condos, coops and HOAs, the bill would make it more difficult to obtain money in bank accounts and sell property to pay a person’s debts.

Legislation regarding licensing of community association managers (which had been considered the past several years) has not been introduced in 2015.

The 90-day legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly runs until April 13, 2015.

Maryland County Law To Require Board Member Education

by Tom Schild

Board members of condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing coops in Montgomery County, Maryland will soon have to complete a class on the responsibilities of serving on the board of directors.  Beginning in January 2016, a new County law  mandates training for all board members within 90 days of first being elected or appointed to the board of directors of a condo, HOA or coop.

The Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities (CCOC) has been tasked with developing an educational curriculum and approving a similar training program administered by other organizations. Where a condo, HOA, or coop board member does not complete the mandatory board education, the CCOC may take legal action to enforce the new training requirement.  Additionally, a CCOC dispute resolution panel may consider a board member’s failure to complete the training in deciding a dispute between a homeowner and a community association.

However, failure to complete the training requirement does not disqualify a board member from continuing to serve on the board or invalidate a vote by the member.

Each community association in Montgomery County will have to certify to the CCOC that each board member has completed the required training and must provide an annual report which includes the name and address of each board member, the date each member completed the training, the number of vacancies on the board, and the length of time each vacancy existed.

The legislation to require board education was considered by the County Council for several months before it was enacted in February, 2015.

2015 Community Association Law Seminar–Spanning the Future

by Tom Schild

The College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL) of the Community Associations Institute (CAI) hosts the 2015 Community Association Law Seminar this week in San Francisco. This year’s theme is Spanning the Future: Forward-thinking perspectives in the specialized area of community association law.

CCAL member Tom Schild will be attending the Law Seminar which covers current hot topics including construction defect litigation, fair housing, assessment collection and rental restrictions.

The College of Community Association Lawyers is comprised of attorneys who have made contributions to the evolution or practice of community association law and who have committed themselves to high standards of professional and ethical conduct in the practice of association law.

Fewer than 150 attorneys nationwide have been granted CCAL membership. Tom Schild is one of only two Maryland-based attorneys who are CCAL members.

2015 MARYLAND LEGISLATIVE FORECAST

The headline news—Republican Larry Hogan takes over as Maryland Governor.

Beyond the headlines, the leadership of the legislative committees which craft most new laws regulating Maryland condominiums and homeowner associations will undergo the most sweeping change in a nearly decade.  Although the Maryland General Assembly remains firmly in Democratic hands, there will be several new committee chairs in 2015.

The previous chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has been elected Maryland Attorney General.  In the House of Delegates, the longtime chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee is leaving that committee to become chair of the House Appropriations Committee.  And, the House Real Property Subcommittee will see new leadership since the prior chair did not run for re-election.

What does this mean for legislation regarding governance of condos and HOAs? Uncertainty.

With changes in committee leadership and newly-elected legislators joining the committees responsible for reviewing bills concerning the Maryland Condominium Act and Maryland Homeowners Association Act, 2015 will be a year for learning about legislative proposals which have been under consideration the past few years.

Likely to be introduced again are bills concerning state licensing of community association managers, condominium construction warranties, and condominium resale disclosures.  Legislation on these matters previously had significant support but will now get a fresh look.  Whether any of these bills will pass in 2015 remains to be seen.

Any legislation approved by the General Assembly must also pass scrutiny by the new Governor who campaigned on promises of lower taxes and less government regulation.  With extensive business experience in real estate development and sales, Governor Hogan can be expected to carefully review legislation affecting the development, sale, and management of property in condominium and homeowner association communities.

For 2015, the only certainty is uncertainty.