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 tenant a copy of the proposed lease. Upon approval of the application, the landlord must notify the prospective tenant, in writing, that the tenant may be present during an inspection of the dwelling before executing the lease to identify existing damage to the unit or personal property in the unit. The landlord must also notify the tenant, in writing, that the owner of the property must have a rental housing license before the unit is occupied and provide the tenant with a copy of the current license as well as a copy of the OCP’s Landlord Tenant Assistance Publication in the language of the tenant’s choice. Finally, the landlord must obtain the tenant’s written acknowledgment of receipt of this information. If the owner fails to provide these notices, the tenant may, at any time before the rental housing license is obtained, terminate the lease without penalty, and the owner must return the tenant’s security deposit. Additional sections of the ordinance outline wording that must be included in leases, including a statement that the landlord may enter the unit at a mutually agreed upon time only after giving the tenant at least 24 hours’ notice to make necessary repairs, alterations, or improvements, or to show the unit to prospective buyers, mortgagees, or tenants. The landlord is not prevented from entering the home in an emergency or when the landlord has reasonable basis to believe the tenant may have damaged the unit or may be in violation of the lease. There is also a provision in the law outlining when tenants may terminate leases early. According to the ordinance, a tenant may terminate their lease with a 60-day written notice because of an involuntary change of employment to a location that is more than 100 miles from the tenant’s current place of employment. This must be confirmed, in writing, by the tenant’s current employer, and relocation must not be paid by the current employer. Other reasons that a tenant may terminate their lease early include death or involuntary unemployment of a wage earner whose income was used to qualify for the lease and other reasonable causes beyond the tenant’s control, such as the receipt of certain orders by military personnel. Lusk Law, LLC, represents landlords and property owners, including handling compliance with landlord-tenant regulations and laws. If you’re a landlord, get the legal advice you need to successfully operate your business. Contact Lusk Law, LLC, to set up a consultation.