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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,…

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…

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…

The Responsibilities of a Rental Property Owner

Rental PropertyOwning a commercial or residential rental property comes with responsibilities. The most basic responsibility is proper upkeep and maintenance, to ensure the tenants can use the property as intended. Additional responsibilities are defined by federal, state, and local laws. Following is a general overview of landlord responsibilities (landlords may wish to consult an attorney to make sure they’re up to date on specific laws in their city or county). Disclosures Required by Law Buildings constructed before 1978 may contain lead-based paint, which is known to cause serious health problems, especially for children. Federal law requires owners of buildings built before 1978 to give prospective tenants a lead-based paint disclosure before they sign a lease. Maryland’s Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing law also requires property owners to register applicable properties with the state and to have their property inspected for lead prior to every change in occupancy, unless the property has been…

New Maryland Carbon Monoxide Detector Law Effective in April

April 1 is the deadline for landlords to install carbon monoxide detectors in rental units. According to legislation that passed in 2016, in dwellings that rely on fossil fuel for heat, ventilation, hot water, or clothes dryer operation, carbon monoxide detectors must be installed on every level of a home, and in the immediate vicinity of sleeping areas. The law – Code of Maryland Article 12, Subtitle 1101 – requires carbon monoxide detectors to be hardwired, meaning they are connected via a circuit, so if one alarm is triggered, all alarms in the home will activate. But there are some exceptions. Hardwired detectors are required only in homes for which a construction permit was issued on or after Jan. 1, 2008 (because older homes might not easily accommodate hardwired systems). What’s New About This Law Maryland enacted a law in 2007 that, as of Jan. 1, 2008, required all newly…

The Impact of Housing Trends on Landlords

KeysThe “American Dream” used to mean buying a home. But after a recession and housing market crash in which many people lost their homes to foreclosure, consumers are more cautious about investing in a home. As a result, demand for single-family rental homes is on the rise. An increase in demand means costs are increasing, too. The cost of single-family home rentals has increased 30 percent in the past three years – that’s good news for landlords and for investors who are able to buy homes and convert them into rentals. But there may be some downsides to this housing trend, too. How Renting Preferences Affect Landlords Young adults are less inclined than previous generations to buy a home. According to Rent Cafe, however, the “biggest game changers” in renting are people older than 55. Between 2009 and 2015, this age group accounted for a 28 percent increase in the…

How Landlords Can Avoid a Bad Reputation

The Responsibilities of a Rental Property OwnerSome landlords don’t care about the condition of their properties, but most people who get into the property rental business don’t want to be known as “slumlords.” To avoid that label, landlords must be diligent about repairing defects on their properties and maintaining the exterior. Potential Consequences of Poor Maintenance Maryland law offers many protections for tenants, and when disputes arise, they are often settled in court. The Baltimore Sun recently reviewed numerous city rent court cases. It found that in one landlord-tenant dispute, the property owner was fined $25,000 for failure to disclose or remediate the presence of lead-based paint. So, in addition to being bad for one’s reputation, a lax approach to property maintenance can have serious financial consequences. Tenants aren’t the only ones who can file a complaint against landlords. Homeowners or business owners can file a complaint if they believe a property is so neglected that…