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An Introduction to the Discovery Process in District and Circuit Courts

business law and landlord/tenant lawIn a court of law, the facts of a case are weighed, then a decision regarding them is made based on applicable laws. Discovery is a step in the legal process that ensures that all of the evidence each party will use at trial, is shared with the other side, so both parties can fully prepare for trial with all relevant information. The general process is the same in both district and circuit court. However, the scope and depth of the inquiry, as well as the timeline for the discovery process, differs between the two. Knowing what to expect as you head through the legal process can help set your mind at ease and help assure the best outcome at every stage. Discovery in District Court Maryland's District Court is where all civil cases for claims under $5,000 are heard. For claims that are between $5,000 and $30,000, District Court shares jurisdiction…

Understanding a Tenant’s Right of First Refusal

Tenant's right to first refusalThe concept behind the right of first refusal is fairly straightforward: Contractually, it’s a right granted to Entity A to enter into a business transaction with Entity B before anybody else is able to. If Entity A decides not to take part in the transaction, Entity B is then free to negotiate with other potential buyers. Often, this concept appears in real estate transactions, where the seller grants a certain party the right to purchase a property before anybody else can. Many leases executed between tenants and landlords contain a right of first refusal clause. In Baltimore City, however, a tenant’s right of first refusal is on the legal books, established in Subtitle 6 of Article 13 of the Baltimore City Code. What does the law say? The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) maintains that “before title to any single-family residential rental property is voluntarily transferred, the tenant of…

How the Shutdown Impacted Small Businesses

Impact of the Government ShutdownAlthough Congress and the President appear to have reached an agreement to fund the government for a brief period while they work on other issues, a great deal of damage has already been inflicted. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees went without pay or without work for over a month, and many key agencies slowed or stopped their activities altogether. The ripple effects of the shutdown spread throughout the economy in ways both large and small. One key group impacted by the shutdown is small businesses which rely on smooth government operations so they can continue to run. Here are some of the ways the shutdown impacted these companies: Support Businesses: Small businesses often spring up in areas where large numbers of federal workers will utilize their services, especially in Maryland, Virginia and the Washington, DC, areas. Everything from diners/restaurants and coffee shops to office supply stores and delivery services lost…

How a Proposed Bill in Baltimore Would Impact Landlords, Renters

Where you live can make a big difference in how you and your children get on in the world. Better neighborhoods don't just have less crime and less environmental pollution. They also afford their residents access to higher performing schools, better quality stores, and higher-quality apartment amenities. This can mean more long-term opportunities for your children and a significant reduction in stress, which can lead to a healthy and longer life. That's why the city of Baltimore's Council Bill 18-0308, which Councilmember Ryan Dorsey introduced in December, 2018, is so important. This legislation proposes to end housing discrimination based solely on source of income. While prospective tenants can still be refused housing based on other factors, like rental history or criminal background, they cannot be rejected because their income falls below a certain threshold without government subsidy. Which Tenants Are Most Affected by Council Bill 18-0308? The bill could potentially affect…

A New Year, a New Business Plan?

Maryland Busniess Planning AttorneyNew Year's is a time for personal reflection, for recommitting to old goals and making resolutions. But what about your business? Like you, it probably could use some fine-tuning. The first of the year is the perfect time to make a new business plan, one that sets new objectives and determines the goals most needed to move the company forward. Scheduling some time at the beginning of this year to create a new business plan will give you renewed faith in your enterprise and the motivation to implement some much-needed changes. Plan for the New Five (or Ten...or 15) Years The way people do business is changing all the time. That's why making a five-year plan is so important. The plan lets you ... take stock of where the business is right now develop a clear break-down of your goals and the steps needed to attain each goal consider how…

Landlords: Winter Is Coming

Landlords: Winter Is ComingWith snow, wind, and freezing temperatures, winter can be especially hard on houses and apartments. Before the chilly weather hits, it’s time to prepare your rental properties for the season. Here are some items that should be on every landlord’s winter checklist. Roofs Check all of your properties’ roofs for signs of damage, such as cracks, missing shingles, or loose flashing around chimneys. Pay close attention to high-wear areas. Windows and Doors Take a look at the caulking and weather-stripping surrounding doors and windows. Re-caulk any deteriorating caulk and consider adding door sweeps under entrance doors. Make sure all of the windows close properly on the top and the bottom. If there’s any cracked glass, replace it. If you have storm windows, now’s the time to install them. Walls Check the walls for cracks and openings, particularly ones big enough that animals can crawl inside. In cold weather, mice and…

When Can a Landlord Evict a Tenant?

When Can a Landlord Evict a Tenant?Although most landlords would agree that it’s far better to have a long-lasting, profitable relationship with a steady tenant, there may come a time when evicting a tenant is the most tenable option for your property, security, and profitability. But evicting a tenant is not as simple as changing the locks and putting furniture on the curb. As with most dealings between landlords and tenants, there are very specific laws governing evictions. Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent In Maryland, in order for a landlord to evict a tenant before the tenancy has expired (meaning before the lease or rental agreement is up), he must have a legal cause to do so. The most common legal reason is failure to pay rent—and when that is the case, the landlord does not have to give the tenant notice before beginning the eviction process. The landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the…

Will You Be a Pet-Friendly Landlord?

Will You Be a Pet-Friendly Landlord?For many Americans, pets are considered a part of the family, and they would not consider living in any home without their fur-bearing companions. Chances are good that many of your potential tenants will also be pet lovers. More than half of all Americans own pets, and nearly all of the pet owners surveyed in a recent Apartments.com study said that pet policies played a major role in their decision of where to live. However, while the decision to share a home with an animal may be easy for a tenant, the landlord faces a harder decision when determining whether or not to allow pets in a rental property. The landlord must carefully weigh the pros and cons and come to a decision that he’s comfortable within his particular situation. Pros of Allowing Pets: You’ll have more potential tenants. With so many pet owners looking for housing, obviously the inability…

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…

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,…