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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,…

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…