Latest Articles from Our Blog

Final Divorce Without the 12-Month Separation? It’s Possible Now

Final Divorce Without the 12-Month Separation? It’s Possible NowBig changes have come to the mutual consent divorce laws in Maryland. A new law, which takes effect October 1, 2018, will allow parents of minor children to file for a mutual consent divorce without the previously mandated one-year separation. Mutual consent divorce is not a brand-new concept in Maryland. In 2015, it became possible for couples without children to obtain an absolute (final) divorce without being separated for a year, as long as they had a written final separation agreement. The new rule makes it possible for couples with minor children to do the same. The new rules will make it much simpler for couples to obtain a “no-fault” divorce, removing the lengthy and costly year-long separation process that previously forced both parties to maintain completely separate residences and finances, while remaining in the State of Maryland. Couples now have much more flexibility to come to a mutual agreement…

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…

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,…

What You Need to Know If You Run a Horse Boarding Facility

Maryland has many protections, regulations, and guidelines regarding the care of horses. Several of these directly impact owners of horse boarding facilities. As a boarding facility owner, it is crucial that you understand your obligations under the law. Whether you are running a large-scale horse operation, are just only one boarder to help defray your horse expenses, giving lessons, have a horse rental service, or are a rescue or stable sanctuary in the state of Maryland, you are required by law to be licensed through the Maryland Horse Industry Board. (Additionally, a few counties have further licensing requirements for boarding facilities.) Regulations Affecting Horse Boarding Facilities The MHIB requires that each horse be provided with shelter that is clean, dry, well-ventilated (but not drafty), and protects the horse from inclement weather. The stables and surrounding areas must also be kept neat and orderly and in good repair. This includes making sure…

Client Spotlight: Media to Memories

We regularly highlight one of the community’s promising businesses in our Client Spotlight. This month, we’re shining the spotlight on Media to Memories, LLC.Lusk Law, LLC, serves a wide array of business clients. We regularly highlight one of the community’s promising businesses in our Client Spotlight. This month, we’re shining the spotlight on Media to Memories, LLC. Media to Memories is a photo-organizing business based in Severna Park, Maryland, that helps people organize, archive, and display their photos in such a way as to make them more enjoyable to view. Owner and lead memory organizer Kristy Stephens came up with the idea to start her business when she sat down to work with her family photos to create her family’s annual yearbook. “I was amazed by how many photos my family of three took in one year,” said Stephens. “We had taken well over 3,000 photos and videos in just one year.” This was when she realized that she had so many photos and videos that it was unrealistic that her family would be…

Know Your Rights with the Right of First Refusal

Know Your Rights with the Right of First Refusal“Daunting,” “baffling,” and “headache-inducing” are just a few of the words used to describe the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) (also called Tenant’s Right of First Refusal), which covers the buying or selling of a single-family residential rental property in the City of Baltimore. Our clients can be concerned because they knew that the procedures required of landlords and tenants by TOPA can be daunting, especially considering that failure to follow the code can result in criminal charges (and invalidate sales). If a landlord decides to sell or transfer a property, TOPA gives tenants the right of first refusal at buying the home they live in. For landlords, any sale of a single-family residential rental property depends on compliance with procedures set out in TOPA. Tenant’s Right of First Refusal Procedures The steps a landlord and tenant must follow are laid out by the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act…

City Council Bill Enhances Requirements for Baltimore Landlords

City Council Bill Enhances Requirements for Baltimore LandlordsBaltimore City Councilman Bill Henry introduced a bill this year that would require licensing and inspection of all private rental properties. Currently, landlords with one- and two-unit rental properties are exempt from those requirements, but those are the properties that most often are the subject of tenant complaints. Mayor Catherine Pugh signed the legislation on May 7, so the new law becomes effective in 2019. Provisions of the Law The new law establishes a three-tier licensing structure: Landlords whose properties pass initial inspections or who promptly repair violations may be licensed for three years and subject to inspection every three years. Landlords whose properties have lingering violations may be required to submit to inspection every year or every two years (depending on the severity and nature of the violations) in order to renew their licenses. Pros and Cons of the New Law Supporters of the legislation say it’s a long-overdue…

Why Landlords Should Be Proactive on Lead Paint in Properties

Why Landlords Should Be Proactive on Lead Paint in PropertiesIn March, the Maryland Senate was considering a bill that would require judges to dismiss eviction suits if landlords can’t prove their compliance with lead paint rules. Landlords with properties built prior to 1978 must provide tenants with information about the health risks of lead and take steps to minimize lead hazards. More than 4,900 children in the past decade have been diagnosed with lead poisoning, raising concerns that landlords are not adequately addressing lead hazards. Advocates for Reform By law, landlords who own properties built before 1978 must have a valid lead-paint inspection certificate before renting a home to tenants; but, according to the Public Justice Center, judges are not permitted to consider whether a landlord has such a certificate when presiding over an eviction case. Advocates for rental reform say that’s unfair to tenants. This year is not the first for a bill about lead-hazard reduction. In 2016, a bill was introduced that would…