HUD to Enforce Fair Housing Act Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced that it will administer and enforce the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The HUD announcement implements President Biden’s January 20, 2021 Executive Order instructing that all statutes which prohibit sex discrimination should be applied to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, so long as the statute does not contain sufficient indications to the contrary.

In explaining its February, 2021 interpretation of the Fair Housing Act, HUD relied on the 2020 decision of the United Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County which ruled that discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination “because of…sex”.

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2021 Maryland Condo and HOA Legislation Introduced

The 2021 Maryland legislative session is now underway and runs until mid-April. Although the top priority for the Maryland General Assembly is Covid-19 relief funding, several bills affecting governance of condominiums, homeowner associations and housing cooperatives have been introduced and are under consideration by Maryland House and Senate legislative committees.

Replacement Reserve Funding. Legislation proposes to require all Maryland condos, HOAs and co-ops to conduct a study of the reserves necessary for major repair and replacement of common property components. The developer would be required to have the initial reserve study prepared and contribute to the reserve fund. The board would then be required to have a reserve study done every 5 years and would be required to fund the recommended amount of reserves. (House Bill 313).

A separate bill to require a reserve study and funding the recommended reserve amount only in Montgomery County was also introduced (House Bill 567). A similar reserve study and funding requirement applicable only in Prince George’s County was enacted in 2020.

Board Member Training. Legislation would require all board members to complete a training course on the responsibilities of being a board member or officer of a Maryland condominium, HOA or housing cooperative within 90 days of first being elected or appointed. A similar training requirement currently applies in Montgomery County. (House Bill 361)

Regulation of Community Association Managers. A proposal requiring community association mangers to be licensed by a Maryland State Board of Common Ownership Community Managers is again under consideration. Requirements for obtaining a community association manager license are based on training, community association management work experience, and knowledge of state laws and regulations concerning common ownership communities. Similar legislation has been introduced for the past several years.

The manager licensing legislation also requires each community association to register annually with the State of Maryland. (House Bill 367)

Electric Vehicle Re-charging Equipment. Covenants and other restrictions of a condominium or homeowners association which prohibit, or unreasonably restrict, the installation or use of electric vehicle recharging equipment in a parking space owned by, or designated for exclusive use by, a homeowner would be void and enforceable under proposed legislation. Additionally, an association board would have to approve a homeowner’s request to install electric vehicle re-charging equipment in the parking space if the owner agreed to comply with specified safety and use conditions. Similar legislation has been considered for the past several years. (House Bill 116/Senate Bill 144)

These bills and other related information can be found on the website of the Maryland General Assembly. To be enacted, proposed legislation must be passed by the Maryland House of Delegates and Maryland Senate, and be approved by the Governor.

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.

Maryland Condominium Board Action Voided by Improper Meeting Notice

A Maryland condominium board of directors’ approval of a $1.2 million contract to update the fire alarm system was invalid where the board did not provide proper advance notice to unit owners, according to a recent decision of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Although neither the condominium bylaws nor the Maryland Condominium Act expressly required notice of a special board meeting be given to unit owners, the appeals court ruled that it is implicit in the open meeting requirements of the Condominium Act that owners be provided with the same notice which the bylaws require to be provided to the directors.

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Maryland Condominium Is Responsible for Maintaining Common Property in Safe Condition

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.

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Maryland Condo Owners May Be Responsible for $10,000 Property Insurance Deductible

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.

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Coronavirus Update: Practical Tips for Community Associations

By Thomas C. Schild and Scott J. Silverman

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.  

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