Maryland General Assembly Wraps Up Virtual 2021 Legislative Session

By Scott Silverman, Esq.

Maryland’s General Assembly recently concluded its 2021 legislative session which was mostly held by virtual video teleconference due to COVID-19 pandemic concerns. Several new laws regarding community association governance were enacted, and take effect October 1, 2021.

Common Property Replacement and Repairs. Reserve studies were again a top issue regarding condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives.   In 2020, a new law was enacted to require condos, coops and HOAs in Prince George’s County, Maryland to obtain a study of the association needs for future major replacement and repair of common property, and require the annual budget of condos and coops to provide funds for future repair work. Although statewide reserve legislation was considered in 2020 and 2021, it was not passed.

But, HB 567, a bill like the one applicable to Prince George’s County associations, was passed this year with respect to associations in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Under the new law, condominiums, cooperatives and homeowner associations in Montgomery County will be required to obtain reserve studies and to have them updated at least every five years. And, condominium, HOA, and housing cooperative boards must include reserve funds in the annual budget for future major replacement and repair of common property.

Electric Vehicles. Concern for the environment was the basis of HB 110/SB 144, the Electric Vehicle Recharging Equipment for Multifamily Units Act, which will make it easier for residents of condominiums and homeowners associations to install electric vehicle recharging stations in parking spaces they own or have an exclusive right to use. Electric vehicle owners will be be entitled to install recharging equipment, which community associations will be able to regulate with respect to safety, architectural standards, and damage to the association common property.

Association Meetings. Considering that the 2021 legislative session was conducted virtually with success, it comes as no surprise that the General Assembly passed legislation that will permit community associations to conduct their meetings virtually as well.  HB 1023/SB 686 will allow meetings of community members and Boards of Directors to convene, attain a quorum, participate in, and vote at meetings by electronic means. Also enacted was HB 593 to clarify the procedure for holding additional meetings of condo and HOA owners where there is no quorum present at the initial owners’ meeting.

Covenant Restrictions. The time spent at home during the COVID pandemic may have caused legislators to focus attention on condo and HOA covenant restrictions on home-based leisure activities. Legislators passed HB 1347, which allows homeowners to use portable basketball hoops free of prohibitions in their communities’ governing documents when that equipment is located upon property that they own or over which they have exclusive control. And, pursuant to HB 248 and HB 322, certain covenant restrictions will be disallowed so that community associations may reasonably regulate, but not prohibit, composting and low-impact landscaping projects associated with promoting environmental conservation, such as rain gardens, pollinator gardens and xeriscaping.

Not This Year. Legislation that would have regulated reserves on a statewide basis is not the only initiative that failed to garner sufficient support to pass.  A similar fate befell bills that would have:  (i) required mandatory training of board members or officers; (ii) mandated registration and licensure of community association managers; (iii) altered the dispute resolution procedures that a board must follow to impose sanctions for violations of a community’s rules; and, (iv) granted community associations immunity from liability to those infected with COVID-19, so long as the association has complied with prevailing statutes, rules, regulations, or executive orders.  Those bills are likely to be introduced again next year, when the Maryland General Assembly convenes in January, 2022.

Posted by Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC which represents condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives throughout Maryland (including Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, Frederick County, and Baltimore) and Washington, D.C.

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