Maryland General Assembly OKs Bill to Help Condos Collect Delinquent Assessments

The Maryland General Assembly has approved legislation to make it easier for condominium associations to suspend use of the common area parking lot, pool and other recreational amenities when an owner is delinquent in paying the condo assessments for more than 60 days.

The new law allows approval by owners with 60 percent of the total eligible votes to amend a condominium declaration to provide for the suspension of use of these portions of the condominium common property.  This is far less than the 80 percent minimum required by the Maryland Condominium Act for other declaration amendments, and some older condo documents require as much as 100 percent unanimous approval.  Continue reading

Maryland Legislature Bans Developer Restrictions on Condominium Warranty Claims

Legislation to prevent condominium developers from imposing restrictions on condominium warranty claims was passed by the Maryland General Assembly during the final days of the legislative session in April, 2018.  In recent years, condominium developers have put provisions in condominium bylaws and sales contracts to limit the ability to condominium associations and unit owners to sue the developer for construction defects. Continue reading

Maryland Condo and HOA Restrictions on Commercial Vehicle Parking

Maryland condominium and homeowners association covenants often prohibit parking “commercial vehicles” without specifying what constitutes a commercial vehicle.

Where a word or phrase used in the declaration of covenants for a condominium or homeowners association is not defined in the covenants or by statute, the board of directors has broad discretion to adopt rules which explain how the provisions of the covenants will be applied.

If there are no community rules which define what constitutes a “commercial vehicle”, it is likely that a court would apply the Maryland statutory definition of “commercial motor vehicle” used in connection with the requirements for obtaining a commercial driver’s license.  Under that definition, a commercial vehicle includes any vehicle with a gross weight rating of at least 26,001 pounds; a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers; or any size vehicle used to transport hazardous materials.  Excluded from the statutory definition are fire and rescue vehicles with audible and visual signals. Continue reading

Condo and HOA Board Member Training Classes

On Sunday February 25, 2018, a training class for condominium, homeowner association, and co-op board members was presented at the Civic Building in Silver Spring, Maryland by attorney Tom Schild of Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC and Mark Fine, Chair of the Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities (CCOC).    

All common ownership community board members in Montgomery County, Maryland are required to take a 2-hour training class within 90 days after being elected or appointed to the board for the first time.  The CCOC’s Community Governance Fundamentals class provides board members with a basic understanding of the responsibilities and procedures for governing their community association. The training class topics include association governing documents and statutes, meeting and decision-making procedures, financial management, and owner rights and responsibilities.

Attorney Scott Silverman of Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC  presented a program on hot topics in Fair Housing in Washington, D.C. at Annual Conference of the Washington Metro Chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI) on Saturday March 10, 2018.  Topics include an overview of fair housing laws, board response to disputes between residents, and accommodations for service and emotional supports animals.

Posted by Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations and housing cooperatives in Maryland -– including Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, Frederick County, and Baltimore County; and in Baltimore City and Washington, D.C.

Montgomery County Towing Law Yields Class-Action Settlement

Faced with a class action suit based on a Montgomery County towing law which makes a property owner liable for the actions of a towing company which is hired to tow unauthorized vehicles, dozens of condominiums and homeowner associations have agreed to settle the suit by paying nearly $400 per tow.

The suit was filed as a class action suit by vehicle owners against over 500 property owners in connection with over 20,000 tows.  It claimed that the towing company improperly asserted a possessory lien on the towed vehicles by refusing to release the vehicle until the tow charges were paid.  It also claimed that the towing company violated County and Maryland law by not providing required notices to the vehicle owners when they came to retrieve their vehicles and by imposing charges for credit card payment.

Although the condos, homeowner associations, and other property owners were not directly involved in the violation of towing law procedures, Montgomery law imposes joint and several liability on property owners for a towing company’s actions and imposes liability for three times the expenses incurred by the vehicle owner.

The cost of each tow was between $168 and $178 which could have resulted in damages of $504 and $534 per tow.  Therefore, the trial court judge who approved the settlement in January 2018 found the settlement of $390 per tow to be “fair, reasonable and adequate”.  Each property owner also was required to pay about $28 per tow as a portion of the legal fees incurred to defend and settle the suit based on a pro rata share of the number of tows which were part of the settlement.

Some condominiums, HOAs and other property owners opted not to settle the suit and the litigation of legal defenses and factual issues may continue to trial.

Although many contracts between the property owners and towing company require the towing company to indemnify the property owners for any improper or unlawful action by the towing company, an agreed $22 million judgment against towing the company with a payment of over $300,000 forced the company out of business and left the property owners without recourse against the towing company.  The claims against some condos and HOAs were covered by the association’s insurance.

Because condos, homeowner associations, and housing co-ops in Montgomery County, Maryland can be liable for up to three times the cost of an improper tow, each association which tows vehicles from the common property should ensure that its towing contract requires the towing company to provide and follow towing procedures which comply with state and local law.

Posted by Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations and housing cooperatives in Maryland -– including Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, Frederick County, and Baltimore County; and in Baltimore City and Washington, D.C.

Maryland Appeals Court Rejects Condo Owner Defamation Claim

A Maryland appeals court has ruled that emails sent to owners in a Baltimore condominium association by the condo President regarding a recent burglary were not defamatory with regard to the owner whose condominium unit was broken into.

An email was sent to another owner who reported the burglary and copied to several board members in part stating: “What do you think I should do in response to your email? Should I ask to be appointed police commissioner so I can station cops in our community 24/7? Should I tell our neighbors not to associate with criminals who might want to cause harm to them”?

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