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The Most Common Landlord-Tenant Disputes and How to Avoid Them

Maryland Rental LicenseLast June, we wrote about how to reduce the risk of disputes with tenants. This month, we're revisiting the topic to highlight the most common tenant-related disputes landlords encounter. Landlords don't want to keep tabs on their tenants every day, and tenants don't want that either. You want to trust that your tenant is taking good care of the property, but sometimes landlords learn the hard way that the tenants are neglecting their responsibilities. Even worse, you may realize that because of a poorly worded lease, you have little legal remedy for the problem. Most disputes arise not due to negligence, but because of incorrect or misaligned expectations. The following are some examples of disputes that often occur because a lease lacks clarity. Yard Maintenance In most community rental buildings, the landlord assumes full responsibility for upkeep of the exterior. But for duplexes and single family homes, there are many…

Considerations for Buying an Investment Property

Maryland Investment PropertyReality TV shows make it look easy: Buy a fixer-upper home, renovate it, sell it, and make a big profit. But that's not how it typically works. In fact, at least one person featured in an episode of HGTV's show "Fixer Upper" said he had already bought his home before appearing on the show and that the show stages the home-shopping process. "Flipping" a house to make a profit is a risky move, for many reasons. First, the biggest mistake people make is underestimating the scope and cost to renovate a home. Complications often arise during renovation, and dealing with those surprises can significantly increase costs. Plus, the people doing the work - carpenters, plumbers, and other craftspeople - can provide estimates for jobs, but the actual costs could end up being much higher. Selling a property can also take longer than anticipated and there are significant carrying costs for…

May is National Electrical Safety Month

Maryland Landlord LawAccording to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, electrical fires damage 51,000 homes every year, causing nearly 500 deaths and $1.3 billion in property damage. To help raise awareness of electricity-related fire risks, ESFI develops special publications and outreach efforts for its yearly National Electrical Safety Month. Every May, ESFI chooses a focus for its campaign. This year, it's, "Decoding the National Electrical Code(r) (NEC) to Prevent Shock and Electrocution." Topics include the risk of electric shock and drowning when swimming near motorized boats; how childproofing outlets can protect children from electric shock; the importance of circuit-interrupter outlets and surge protection; and the importance of compliance with electrical code. For Maryland landlords - especially those whose properties were built more than a few decades ago - this month may be a good time to reevaluate the safety of electrical components and systems in your rental homes. Aging Wiring Peeling paint and…

Legal Services for Maryland Landlords

Maryland Landlord LawyerMaryland's patchwork of real estate laws can be confusing for landlords. For example, in Montgomery County, you can't list your home for rent on the online booking site Airbnb, unless you allow rentals of only one month or longer, or if you're licensed as a bed-and-breakfast. But in Baltimore County, it's legal to list your home on Airbnb. Whether you lease your home as a vacation property, manage an apartment complex with hundreds of tenants, or have only commercial tenants, you may encounter a number of legal challenges as a landlord. Lusk Law, LLC, provides the legal guidance you need to operate a successful enterprise - from drafting legal documents to representing you in court, should litigation become necessary. Contact us today to schedule your consultation: 443-535-9715. Commercial Landlord Services Commercial landlords often need legal advice about which type of lease they should use for their properties. Depending on how…

Legal Services for Maryland Landlords

Maryland Tenant ScreeningMaryland's patchwork of real estate laws can be confusing for landlords. For example, in Montgomery County, you can't list your home for rent on the online booking site Airbnb, unless you allow rentals of only one month or longer, or if you're licensed as a bed-and-breakfast. But in Baltimore County, it's legal to list your home on Airbnb. Whether you lease your home as a vacation property, manage an apartment complex with hundreds of tenants, or have only commercial tenants, you may encounter a number of legal challenges as a landlord. Lusk Law, LLC, provides the legal guidance you need to operate a successful enterprise - from drafting legal documents to representing you in court, should litigation become necessary. Contact us today to schedule your consultation: 443-535-9715. Commercial Landlord Services Commercial landlords often need legal advice about which type of lease they should use for their properties. Depending on how…

Positioning Yourself for Success As a Landlord

MD Unlawful Detainer LawyerIf you're thinking about becoming a full-time landlord, take time to ensure you're aware of Maryland's landlord-tenant laws and have the legal documents you need to protect your interests. There are many points to consider before you begin searching for tenants. Following are some tips for aspiring landlords: Forget about being nice. Some landlords make the mistake of letting a friend or relative move into their rental property without a lease. But when those arrangements go awry, those kindhearted landlords may suffer financial losses - and a permanently damaged interpersonal relationship. Any tenant - even a relative - should understand why you require a lease. If you feel sheepish asking someone you know to sign a lease, explain that it protects their rights, too. Resist the urge to rent to anyone based on a "good feeling" - even the worst tenants can seem charming when you first meet them. Use…

How the HOME Act Could Affect Landlords

Landlord InsuranceIn December, Delegate Stephen Lafferty, D-Baltimore County, said specifics for a 2017 version of his HOME Act legislation were in progress. Lafferty introduced the bill in the last legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly, but it did not move beyond the first hearing. If the 2017 version is not substantially different from last year’s HOME Act, it would – if passed – require landlords to accept Housing Choice Vouchers. The bill would extend discrimination protection to people participating in the voucher program; landlords would be prohibited from refusing tenants based on their method of payment. For Maryland landlords, the legislation could result in significant changes to how they conduct business. However, several Maryland jurisdictions already have local laws extending such discrimination protection to people participating in the voucher program, including Howard County. How the Program Works Formerly known as “Section 8,” the voucher program is federally funded, but is…

A Primer on Maryland Courts

Maryland Court SystemDo you know why Maryland has an “Orphans’ Court,” or which court hears landlord-tenant cases? You can find the answers to those questions, and others, in this primer we’ve written about Maryland courts. The Maryland Judicial System Maryland has four court levels: two trial courts (District Court and Circuit Courts) and two appellate courts (Court of Special Appeals and Court of Appeals). The Orphans’ Court handle wills, estates, and other probate matters. The Maryland Tax Court is not part of the judicial system but hears administrative appeals from the final decisions of Maryland or local tax authorities. Here’s some basic information about Maryland courts: District Court The District Court of Maryland hears both civil cases (including claims up to $30,000, domestic violence cases, and landlord-tenant disputes) and criminal cases (motor vehicle violations, and other misdemeanors and limited felonies). For civil claims of $5,000 to $30,000, District Courts share jurisdiction with…

How to Legally Screen Tenants

Maryland Rental LicenseLandlords want to find the best tenants for their rental properties, and that begins with a thorough application and screening process. You can ask numerous questions of applicants, but some questions are forbidden, under federal housing law. Read on for tips on how to legally screen rental applicants. Getting the Basics A rental application should ask for basic information that includes: Full name, including previous/maiden name Date of birth Social Security number Current address, previous two addresses, and contact information for current and former landlords Driver’s license number and vehicle information Employment information and employer contact information Income. Including additional questions can help you weed out potential problem tenants. You may legally ask for bank account numbers, whether an applicant has ever been convicted of a felony, and whether the applicant has ever been evicted. You can also ask for a personal reference. Include language before the signature line that…

Subletting: Good or Bad for Landlords?

MD Unlawful Detainer LawyerWhen drafting a lease agreement, landlords sometimes wonder whether they should include a cause that expressly forbids tenants from subletting their rentals. If you prohibit subletting, you may be able to avoid some complicated legal issues, but there are a few reasons subletting could be beneficial for landlords. Read on to find out more about the pros and cons of subletting. Travel Considerations If tenants travel frequently, subletting can help ensure your property doesn’t lie vacant for weeks at a time. Plus, some landlords see an opportunity to earn extra income by allowing tenants to sublet. The San Francisco Chronicle featured a story about tenant-landlord clashes over subletting. Some landlords evicted tenants for subletting their apartments through the travel site Airbnb, but at least one landlord saw an opportunity to earn more income, offering tenants the ability to sublet, for a 20 percent share of the Airbnb rental cost. Airbnb…