Condominiums in Maryland have a duty to exercise reasonable and ordinary care to keep the common area safe for residents and their guests. Where there is a dangerous condition on the property which the condominium board or manager knew or should have known about, the condominium may be liable for the injuries caused by the dangerous condition.
Duty Owed Depends on Status of Injured Person. As explained in a decision of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the potential “premises liability” depends on the relationship between the injured person and the condominium. For an “invitee” on the property at the invitation of the property owner, there is duty of reasonable and ordinary care which includes a duty to inspect the property to discover and correct dangerous conditions. Invitees must also be warned of known dangers. For a “social guest” or “licensee” who is permitted on the property for the benefit of the person entering the property, there is only a duty to warn of known dangers. For a “trespasser” or “bare licensee” who does not have permission to be on the portion of the property where an injury occurs, there is merely a duty to refrain from willful injury or entrapment but no duty to warn of dangerous conditions.
The Maryland Condominium Act has been amended to increase from $5,000 to $10,000 the amount which a unit owner may be required to pay where the cause of fire, water or other casualty damage to units or the common elements originates in that owner’s condominium unit, beginning October 1, 2020.
In recent years, it is has become common that the insurance deductible amount for property damage claims is at least $10,000. Some condo associations are not able to purchase insurance with a lower deductible due to its claims history. Others choose to have a deductible of $10,000 or more to obtain lower insurance premium costs.
For condos which have a deductible of at least $10,000, an owner will be responsible for the first $10,000 of repair costs to the owner’s units, other units and the common elements if the cause of damage originates in the owner’s water or sewer pipes, kitchen or other parts of the unit. If the insurance deductible is less than $10,000, a unit owner will be responsible for the lower deductible amount. The condominium association will be responsible for the repair cost in excess of the deductible amount.
When Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) was declared a pandemic in mid-March, 2020, state and local governments in Maryland and Washington, D.C. ordered that most everyone stay home to limit the spread of the coronavirus. After several months of staying home and restrictions on gathering in public places, business and social activity in Maryland and the District of Columbia stated Phase 2 re-opening in late June, 2020.
While the duration and impact of COVID-19 locally and throughout the United States is still unknown, it is certain that condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives must continue to adapt their practices and procedures to the ongoing health crisis. With most offices in the Washington region likely to remain closed until September, 2020 or longer, many residents are still staying home and working at home. Schools may not fully open until 2021, which means school-age children and their parents will continue to be home.
Although we defer to medical and health professionals on how to best protect against the spread of COVID-19, we offer a few practical tips on how community association boards, managers, and residents can adapt the management and operation of their community to limit the risk of illness…and legal liability.
Where a condominium unit in Baltimore County, Maryland was damaged by steam escaping from the heating system when a unit owner hired a plumber to remove heat radiators in the unit and was negligent by not requesting the contractor to re-install the radiators after the unit was painted, the condo insurance carrier may not recover the cost to repair the unit from the plumbing contractor, a federal trial court in Maryland recently ruled.
The radiators were removed in July when the central heating system was not operating, and the unit owner did not request the contractor to re-install the radiators until November after the heating system had been tuned on. The cost of more than $120,000 to repair the damage to the unit was covered by the condominium’s property damage insurance. The insurance company paid the condominium association which then paid the unit owner who hired a contractor to make the repairs to the unit.
The insurance carrier filed suit against the plumbing contractor to recover the amount it paid to the condominium. The contractor contended that the claim should not be allowed because the unit owner was an insured under the condo master insurance policy and was negligent in not contacting the contractor to re-install the radiators. Continue reading →
Short term daily and weekly rentals are now allowed in all residential areas of Montgomery County, Maryland, beginning July 1, 2018.
Previously, no residential rentals were permitted in Montgomery County for less than 30 days. Faced with widespread illegal daily and weekly rentals, the County Council passed legislation in October, 2017 to allow these rentals where the property is the primary residence of the owner or owner-authorized resident of the rental property. However, condominiums, homeowner associations and housing cooperatives are still allowed to ban or restrict short term rentals. Continue reading →
The hot topic during the 2018 Maryland legislative session was how Maryland will adapt to recent changes in federal income tax and health insurance laws.
Beyond the headlines, the Maryland General Assembly considered many bills which directly affect Maryland condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives. Several new laws which help condos and HOAs were enacted.Continue reading →