2017 Maryland Condo and HOA Legislation–The Final Score

During the 2017 Maryland legislative session, the General Assembly considered many bills regarding condominium and homeowner association governance, foreclosure procedures, state registration of community associations, and regulation of community association managers.

Legislation passed includes bills to make it easier to amend condo bylaws and an HOA declaration; require lender notice of foreclosure sale postponement and cancellation; and require community associations to provide owner notice of common property sales, including government tax sales. Continue reading

New Fair Housing Harassment Rules Apply to Community Associations

Condominiums, housing co-ops and homeowner associations may be liable for the conduct of community residents which subjects other residents to “hostile environment harassment” under new rules issued by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The new fair housing rules, which apply beginning October 14, 2016, establish nationwide standards which HUD will apply in enforcing the federal Fair Housing Act with respect to alleged harassment based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status or disability. According to HUD, the rules do not create any new forms of liability under the Fair Housing Act but merely clarify HUD’s enforcement policies on “quid pro quo” and “hostile environment” harassment.  In addition, the rules clarify when a person may have vicarious liability for the actions of agents and employees in the context of discriminatory housing practices.

The new HUD rules define “hostile environment harassment” to mean “unwelcome conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive as to interfere with the availability, sale, rental, or use or enjoyment of a dwelling” and other housing-related activity.  Whether hostile environment harassment exists will be evaluated from the totality of the circumstances and from the perspective of a reasonable person in the aggrieved person’s position.

“Quid pro quo” harassment refers to circumstances where submission to an “unwelcome request or demand” is a condition related to housing transactions or services.

In addition to liability for a person’s own conduct and the conduct of that person’s agents and employees, the new fair housing rules also make a person liable for failing to take prompt action to correct and end a discriminatory housing practice by a third-party, where the person knew or should have known of the discriminatory conduct and had the power to correct it.

The HUD explanatory statement accompanying the rules specifically addresses the obligations of condominiums, homeowner associations and housing co-ops to act to correct a discriminatory housing practice by taking “whatever actions it legally can take to end the harassing conduct”.  And, HUD refers to the 2015 decision of the United States Supreme Court in Texas Department of Community v. Inclusive  Communities Project, Inc. in support of its position that a person’s failure to act to correct third-party harassment does not need to be motivated by a discriminatory intent in order to be liable for a Fair Housing Act violation.

Posted by Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowners associations and housing co-operatives in Maryland–including Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, and Frederick County; and in the District of Columbia.

2016 Maryland Condo & HOA Legislative Scorecard

The Maryland legislature has passed legislation which affects the management and operation of condominiums and homeowner associations.  New laws which take effect October 1, 2016 include:

Resale Disclosures.   Homeowner associations will be required for the first time to provide resale disclosure information to an owner selling a home in an HOA.  For condos which have long been required to provide resale disclosures, the disclosure requirements have been clarified or changed on matters such as assessments, replacement reserves, pending litigation, unit alterations, and violations of health or building codes.  And, the amount which condos, HOAs and management companies may charge for providing resale disclosure information is capped by the new law.

Tax Sale Procedure.  The purchaser of property at a tax sale will be required to notify condos and HOAs when a court suit is filed to prevent owners of property in those communities from keeping ownership of property.  The new law also provides that when a tax sale is approved by the court,  the tax sale purchaser is responsible for payment of condominium and homeowner association assessments from the date of the court judgment, whether or not a tax sale deed to the property is recorded in the land records.

Assessment Collection.  A court suit will not be permitted for any unpaid assessments where the time for filing suit has expired. Any subsequent payment on the debt, or written or oral affirmation of the debt will not revive or extend the statute of limitations. This applies to all suits involving consumer debt, not just association assessments.

Home Gambling.  Card games and mah jong games hosted in a residence not more than once a week will now be allowed where the total gambling bets for all players is no more than $1,000 in a 24-hour period.  In senior communities with age 55 restrictions, these games will also be allowed in the common areas.

Legislation considered but not enacted would have required state registration of all condos, co-ops and HOAs, and would have made it easier to amend association governing documents by allowing an owner’s failure to vote on a proposed amendment to be counted as that owner’s approval of the proposed amendment.

Also rejected was a bill to prohibit provisions in condominium sales contracts and bylaws which limit the ability of condo associations to file suit to enforce construction warranties on the common elements.

Posted by: Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

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Montgomery Commission on Common Ownership Communities Under Review

Changes to the operation, composition and dispute resolution process of the Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities (CCOC) are under review by the Montgomery County Council.

Since 1991, the CCOC has been an information resource for residents and leaders of condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives in Montgomery County, Maryland.  And, its mediation and arbitration program has offered a way of resolving disputes between homeowners and associations regarding matters such as association governance procedures, owner architectural changes, and the authority of the association board of directors.

Montgomery County has experienced significant growth in common ownership communities in the 25 years since the CCOC was established.  There are currently over 1,000 condominium, homeowners association, and co-operative communities with approximately 340,000 residents.

Legislation proposed by the County Executive would require mediation of certain disputes regarding common ownership communities and would require that all members of a dispute resolution hearing panel be members of the CCOC.  Currently, mediation is voluntary and the hearing panels are chaired by an attorney volunteer who is not a member of the CCOC.

Additionally, the proposed legislation (County Council Bill No. 50-15)  would change the composition for the CCOC membership to include 5 members of the public who are not owners or residents in a common ownership community or affiliated with professions associated with these communities.  Currently, the 15-member Commission is comprised of 8 members who are owners or residents and 7 members who are members of professions associated with common ownership communities (such as managers, attorneys, real estate agents, and developers).  The bill would also change the government agency responsible for providing staff and other support from the Office of Consumer Protection to the Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

The County Executive requested these changes in response to a report of the Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight regarding CCOC operations and a ruling of the County Ethics Commission regarding volunteer attorney hearing panel chairs who represent associations or homeowners before the CCOC for compensation on other matters.

The CCOC opposes the legislation and instead proposes that a work group which includes CCOC members be convened to provide recommendations to the County Executive and County Council before any statutory changes  are made.

Posted by: Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

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Maryland Condo and HOA Legislative Hot Topics for 2016

With the Maryland legislature in the midst of its 2016 session which runs to mid-April, several bills which would affect condomium and homeowner association operations are now being considered by House and Senate legislative committees of the Maryland General Assembly.

Resale Disclosures

Legislation concerning resale disclosures would cap the amount which an association or it management company could charge an owner for providing the governing documents and other information  in connection the sale of the owner’s home. As introduced, the bill would limit the basic charge to $250 and allow additional charges of $100 to inspect the property for covenant violations and up to $100 for providing an expedited response to a request for resale disclosures.

Condo associations have long  been required to provide resale disclosure information.   If enacted, the bill would create a new obligation for a homeowners association to provide resale disclosure information to an owner who is selling a home in an HOA.

Condominium Construction Warranty

Also under review is legislation to amend the Maryland Condominium Act to prevent developers of residential condominiums from including provisions in sales contracts and condo governing documents which limit the ability of condominium associations to file suit to enforce construction warranties for the condominium common elements.

Among the provisions which the warranty bill would prohibit are those which purport to shorten the statute of limitations applicable to any legal claims; waive the “discovery rule” or other accrual date applicable to claims; and prevent a condo association from bringing claims on behalf of two or more unit owners.  It would also disallow developer-imposed requirements that as condo association obtain the approval of unit owners, the developer or others as a condition to commencing mediation, arbitration or litigation on behalf of the condo association.

Annual State Registration

Legislation has also been introduced which would require annual state registration of all condos, HOAs and coops and require associations to  provide contact information for the association board members and any management company and attorney.employed by the association.  It would also require information regarding the number and type of residential units,  fidelity insurance, replacement reserves, grievance procedures and any other information required by the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Amendment of Governing Documents

A bill to make it easier to  amend the declaration, bylaws and other governing documents of condos and HOAs has also been introduced.  It would allow an amendment by a vote of owners in “good standing” which includes only owners who are not more than  3 months in arrears in payment of association assessments and have satisfied other requirements of the bylaws.  An amendment could be passed by  two-thirds of the total votes of owners in good standing, or by a lower percentage if required in the governing document. The legislation would also allow an owner’s failure to vote to be counted as that owner’s approval of the proposed amendment.

As of mid-February 2016, these bills are under review by House and Senate legislative committees and have not been enacted..

Posted byThomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

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Snow Disaster Aid Not Available For Community Associations

The Blizzard of 2016 left over 2 feet of snow blanketing many parts of Maryland, Washington D.C. and other areas from Virginia to New York.   To help with clean-up efforts after the historic storm, the District of Columbia and states throughout the mid-Atlantic region are expected to seek federal disaster funds.

Although many community associations have private roads which are available for public use, no federal snow clearing funds will be available for association roads and other common property.  Condominiums, housing co-ops, and homeowner associations are not eligible to receive federal funds to clean-up and repair common property after a natural disaster.

Under current law, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regards community associations as business entities, and therefore ineligible for most forms of federal disaster response and recovery assistance which is available to state and local governments. And, individual condo and co-op owners are not eligible for funds to repair commonly-owned building components..  That would change if Congress enacts legislation now pending in the United States House of Representatives.

The Disaster Assistance Equity Act of 2015 (HR 3863) would allow all community associations to receive funds for the removal of snow, trees and debris obstructing roads and for repair of critical community infrastructure that provide essential services of a governmental nature.  It would also allow condo and co-op owners to receive funds to repair commonly-owned items such as roofs, exterior walls, and elevators.

With all seats in the House and one-third of Senate seats up for election in 2016, now is the perfect time for community association leaders and residents to let their congressional legislators know the importance of enacting legislation to allow the availability of federal disaster aid funds for clean-up and repairs in community associations.

Posted by: Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing co-operatives in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

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