Latest Articles from Our Blog

Client Spotlight – Angela Mays of Strategic Financial Solutions Group, LLC

At Lusk Law, we have the privilege of working with incredible people, many of them entrepreneurs and business owners. We regularly take the opportunity to shine a spotlight on these clients to find out more about their businesses, achievements and relationship with our firm. For this installment of our Client Spotlight series, we talked to Angela Mays, Managing Director and Founder of Strategic Financial Solutions Group, LLC, which specializes in providing accounting and consulting services to the defense and real estate industries. Angela told us about her journey from part-time to full-time business owner, her ideal clients and her relationship with Lusk Law, LLC. Questions and responses have been lightly edited. When did you start your business and what achievements are you proud of? Angela Mays: I started my business 18 years ago as a part-time business providing accounting and tax services for small businesses. I officially started full-time in…

What Does Baltimore’s New Inspection Law Mean for Smaller Landlords?

What Does Baltimore’s New Inspection Law Mean for Smaller Landlords?A new law in Baltimore is requiring landlords of smaller rental properties to get their apartments inspected. The uncertainty of these inspections is concerning to some smaller landlords, although many still support it. The law is aimed at improving housing conditions in Baltimore’s lower-income areas, according to the Baltimore Sun. Owners of rental properties with one or two bedrooms have until Jan. 1, 2019, to pass a 20-point inspection before they can obtain a license to rent their properties. This is a new requirement for Baltimore’s smaller landlords—previously, only the owners of multifamily properties with three or more units were required to be registered, inspected, and licensed. However, the Sun reports that most of the city’s violations for problems such as rodents, mold, and lack of heat come from these one- and two-unit properties that make up half of Baltimore’s rental market. The inspection must be performed by a licensed third-party…

A Closer Look at Maryland’s Business Climate

A Closer Look at Maryland’s Business ClimateIn July 2018, CNBC released its list of America’s Top States for Business 2018. Overall, Maryland was ranked 31st out of all 50 states, an aggregate score that combined many metrics that CNBC considered as contributing to a state’s “business climate.” (Texas topped the list, and Alaska came in at the bottom.) Each state was ranked in “10 broad categories, weighted based on how frequently each is used as a selling point in state economic development marketing materials,” CNBC said. “That way, [the] study ranks the states based on the criteria they use to sell themselves.” The final ranking, therefore, may not tell the complete story of a state, which may not fare too well in one category while excelling in another. That’s certainly the case in Maryland. CNBC’s takeaway for Maryland, which fell six spots in the ranking since last year, was that “the workforce in the Old Line State is…

To Lease or to Buy Your Small Business’s Office Space?

To Lease or to Buy Your Small Business’s Office Space?Anybody who starts a small business is immediately faced with a seemingly never-ending series of decisions. Some are small, and some are large, but they all have the potential to impact your bottom line. One of the most important decisions a business owner will face early on has to do with office space. Is it better to lease or to buy your small business’s office space? Here are some things to keep in mind while you make this decision. Upfront costs: When you buy commercial real estate, you may typically have to invest up to six times in upfront costs compared with leasing commercial real estate according to an article on FitsSmallBusiness.com. Most purchasers of commercial real estate finance the purchase with a loan that may require up to 20 percent as a down payment. Add in due diligence fees and closing costs, and this becomes the largest drawback to purchasing commercial…

There’s Room for Negotiation Between Landlords and Tenants

There's Room for Negotiation Between Landlords and TenantsIt's been a decade since the housing bust of 2008, and according to the Pew Research Center, more households in the United States are headed by renters than at any time since 1965. In 2016, 36.6% of households rented their home, compared to 31.6% in 2006. Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, gross rents have continued to rise in many metropolitan areas. The current rental climate – rising demand along with rising rent costs – may lead some renters to ask how much room there is for negotiation with a landlord. The answer is: More than you might think. A poll by the real estate website Zillow showed that 61 percent of landlords were willing to negotiate with a tenant if competition for a property was slim. “Negotiating rent may seem like an intimidating process, but it can be worth the effort,” Douglas Pope, co-founder of rental website HotPads,…

Three New Maryland Laws Business Owners Should Know About

Three New Maryland Laws Business Owners Should Know AboutMaryland business owners have seen the state’s minimum wage increase coming for a few years. The hike (from $9.25 to $10.10 per hour) went into effect July 1, 2018, and was the final phase of a law passed by the General Assembly in 2014. The first raise, from $7.25 to $8, went into effect in 2015, increasing three times after that. The minimum wage increase was not the only law to take effect on July 1. There are a few other new laws on the books now that business owners will want to keep an eye on. Corporate income tax: As of July 1, Maryland has officially initiated a phase-in of a single-sales factor apportionment system to calculate corporate income tax. What it means: In tax years 2017 and earlier, all multistate Maryland corporate taxpayers calculated sales tax with a three-factor formula based on property (how much land the corporation…

Picking the Right Structure for Your Business

Picking the Right Structure for Your BusinessStarting a business means making dozens of choices both big and small. One of the most important choices you will make is how you will structure your business entity. Two of the most common options are the S corporation (S corp) and C corporation (C corp). If you don’t understand the difference between the two, you’re not alone. Many budding entrepreneurs ask questions about which business structure they should choose. And yet it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make about your business. C Corporations are the standard corporation, whereas the S corporation takes advantage of a special IRS tax status. S corporations are so named because they are defined by Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code. IRS Form 2553 must be filed to elect S corporation status and all S corporation guidelines must be met. How S Corps and C Corps are Similar C corps and S…

New Rules for Landlords in Howard County

New Rules for Landlords in Howard CountyOn June 4, 2018, the Howard County Council passed new landlord-tenant regulations as outlined out in Bill No. 20 -2018. The bill includes new regulations for landlords and tenants, including specifying the powers and duties of the Howard County Office of Consumer Protection. According to the law, the OCP now has jurisdiction over all complaints filed under the ordinance, and it may initiate its own investigations and enforce the ordinance as necessary. Furthermore, landlords must make available all rental housing for inspections and all rental housing records necessary for the OCP to enforce the ordinance or investigate a matter related to the ordinance. The OCP also has the power to issue a subpoena to compel a landlord or tenant to produce relevant documents, papers, books, records, or any other evidence it deems necessary. The regulations also specify that when a landlord receives a rental application, they must give the prospective…

Understanding the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act

Understanding the Maryland Healthy Working Families ActOn Jan. 12, 2018, Maryland became the ninth state to adopt a mandatory sick leave statute, when the Maryland General Assembly overrode Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of legislation requiring Maryland employers to provide sick and safe leave to their employees. Known as the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, this law provides employees with up to 40 hours of sick and safe leave each year and went into effect on Feb. 11, 2018. Who is Affected? The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act applies to all employers, including state and local governments, in the state of Maryland. However, the law distinguishes between large and small employers. For employers with 14 or fewer employees, leave may be provided on an unpaid basis. For employers with 15 or more employees, sick and safe leave is paid at the employee’s normal pay wage rate, unless the employee is a tipped employee, in which case the…

Client Spotlight: Through the Garden

Client Spotlight: Through the GardenLusk Law, LLC, regularly shines the spotlight on one of our clients. For this month’s spotlight, we are recognizing Through the Garden, a client that is one of the premiere landscaping firms in our area. Through the Garden is a boutique landscaping company that creates unique and artistic landscapes for their clients throughout Maryland, northern Virginia, and Washington D.C. They are small enough to develop close relationships with their customers and large enough to handle any size project. Their ideal client is a discerning customer who is looking for a creative design with a personal touch and understands that creativity and quality take more time and a larger budget. Through the Garden’s award-winning projects have been showcased in magazines and featured in home and garden television shows. Examples of their projects include comprehensive master garden plans, rooftop gardens, theme gardens, aquatic gardens, pool scaping, foundation plantings, landscape lighting, stone walls,…