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The Top 5 Legal Mistakes Maryland Landlords Make

While it is nice to earn income by renting property, it won’t be worth it if you make legal mistakes and end up being sued in a landlord-tenant dispute. If you are considering becoming a landlord in Maryland, it makes sense to consult a skilled landlord/tenant lawyer to review your documents and practices to make sure they are all legal and your interests are protected. At Lusk Law, LLC, we can help prevent landlord legal claims from happening and keep you from making costly mistakes. The Top 5 Legal Mistakes Maryland Landlords Make The Maryland Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Protection Division, offers tips for avoiding landlord/tenant disputes.  By reviewing these, you can prevent costly legal battles.  Here are some of the most common legal mistakes landlords make: 1. Asking Discriminating Questions of Potential Renters Under the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 as amended,…

What Are Replevin/Detinue Actions?

If another person has taken — or borrowed and refused to return — property belonging to you, you may be wondering whether you have legal recourse to recover the item or items. Yes, you do, in the form of replevin and detinue actions. These two types of cases are very similar, but there are a few key differences. The lawyers at Lusk Law, LLC are happy to sit down with you and discuss the specifics of each type of action and which is most appropriate for your situation. A Replevin Action Is Quicker, but Temporary If you want the fastest possible return of your property, a replevin action may be the best first step. When you file for replevin, you must demonstrate in a Show Cause hearing that you are entitled to gain possession of the property right away. Just because you own the item or have title to it…

Understanding a Tenant’s Right of First Refusal

The 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…

A New Year, a New Business Plan?

New 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…

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?

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?

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

On 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

“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

Baltimore 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…