2020 Maryland General Assembly Summary

Posted By: Aaron Greenfield The Advocate ,

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Maryland Multi-Housing Association

2020 Maryland General Assembly Summary

The Maryland General Assembly took the extraordinary step of ending its annual session on March 18th, more than two weeks early — a recognition of concerns over spread of the coronavirus.  It is believed to be the first time the Assembly has cut a session short since the Civil War after passing sweeping reforms to education, a plan to rebuild the Pimlico Race Track and emergency legislation to address the spread of the coronavirus.

Landlord-Tenant/Rent Escrow matters

  • House Bill 231/Senate Bill 530, Housing Opportunities Made Equal Act.  This bill passed.

This bill prohibits discriminatory practices in residential real estate transactions and the sale or rental of a dwelling because of a person’s source of income.  This becomes effective October 1, 2020. 

  • House Bill 491, Landlord and Tenant - Repossession for Failure to Pay Rent - Lead Risk Reduction Compliance.  This bill did not advance. 

This bill alters the procedures by which a landlord may repossess property for failure to pay rent in the State and in Baltimore City. Under the bill, if the property is required by local law or regulation to operate under a valid registration or license issued by a State, county, or municipal organization, the landlord’s complaint must state that the property is registered or licensed and state the registration or license number for the property to be repossessed.

  • House Bill 744, Tenant Protection Act.  This bill did not advance but was amended heavily in the House.

This bill makes multiple changes to statute related to tenant rights and protections, including (1) establishing requirements and procedures for landlords that use a ratio utility billing system; (2) requiring a statement of cost, as required under current law if a landlord withholds the return of a security deposit, to include specified documentation if practicable; and (3) expanding protections for tenants or legal occupants who are victims of specified crimes to include victims of stalking

  • House Bill 768, Baltimore City - Repossession for Failure to Pay Rent - Registration and License Information.  This bill did not advance but we worked with the Sponsor to amend the bill to require the residential housing provider to prove that it is registered under the Baltimore City rental registry system.  This legislation will return and we strongly urge membership to begin bringing proof of rental registration in Baltimore City, even by electronic means.

This bill requires a written complaint to repossess property in Baltimore City due to the failure to pay rent to include records demonstrating that the property is compliant with or exempt from local law and State statute regarding licensure and registration. At a trial for repossession for failure to pay rent, a landlord must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is in compliance with the licensing and registration requirements. The court is prohibited from issuing a warrant of restitution if the tenant demonstrates through official records that the property is not in compliance

  • House Bill 1372, Real Property - Residential Leases - Repair of Dangerous Defects and Failure to Pay Rent.  This bill did not advance but we expect it to return.

This bill makes multiple changes to statute related to the repair of dangerous defects in residential dwelling units and failure to pay actions. It establishes that, by offering a residential dwelling unit for rent, the landlord is deemed to warrant that the unit is fit for human habitation and holds the obligation to repair and eliminate conditions and defects, as specified. The bill expands the remedies available to a tenant based on the failure of a landlord to makes specified repairs or corrections by authorizing a tenant to bring an action for money damages for breach of the warranty of habitability. Among other items, the bill also (1) establishes a method for calculating damages; (2) authorizes a court to award a tenant reasonable attorney’s fees and costs under specified circumstances; (3) alters procedures in a failure to pay rent action; (4) establishes that a related public local law or ordinance may supersede State law only if it provides more protection or relief to a tenant; and (5) makes numerous technical and stylistic change

 

Exemption from Attachment

  • House Bill 365/Senate Bill 425, Debt Collection - Exemptions From Attachment and Execution.  This legislation passed.

Current law exempts from attachment 50 times the federal minimum wage.  This bill alters the amount of wages of a judgment debtor that are exempt from attachment. Under the bill, the following is exempt from attachment: the greater of 75% of the disposable wages due or 30 times the State minimum hourly wage in effect at the time the wages are due, multiplied by the number of weeks during which the wages due were earned. The bill applies prospectively and may not be applied or interpreted to affect or apply to any writ of garnishment or writ of execution issued before its October 1, 2020 effective date.

Property Management Registration

  • House Bill 929, State Real Estate Commission - Property Managers – Registration.  This bill passed the House with one of our amendments but did not advance in the Senate. 

This bill requires specified persons to register with the State Real Estate Commission in the Maryland Department of Labor (MDL) as property managers before providing, attempting to provide, or offering to provide property management services in the State, subject to specified conditions. A person otherwise licensed by the commission may provide property management services in the State without also being registered as a property manager and meeting the related liability coverage requirement

Kirwan Commission

The most significant issue undertaken by the legislature this session was House Bill 1300/Senate Bill 1000, Blueprint for Maryland's Future – Implementation.  The legislation, which passed, stems from three years of research conducted by the commission, which is nicknamed after its chairman, former University System of Maryland Chancellor William “Brit” Kirwan. A commission report calls for dozens of additional programs, including expanding prekindergarten to more students, tougher standards and higher salaries for teachers, including a starting salary of $60,000, more vocational training programs in high schools and more support for schools with high concentrations of students from poor families.

House Bill 1300/Senate Bill 1000 mandates the creation of an independent, seven-member “Accountability and Implementation Board” to oversee the overhaul. In addition to scrutinizing how schools are spending state taxpayers’ money, the board would be required to study student performance and how well the policies are closing an achievement gap among students of different races.  But the legislation also would impose a $3.8 billion annual funding mandate on state government, counties and Baltimore City without a clear way to pay for it. Under the legislation, state taxpayers would be required to cover about three-fourths of the cost, with the rest covered by local jurisdictions.

Legislators cobbled together revenue to bring in more than $400 million annually for schools. While that won’t fully fund the state’s share of the costs of the overhaul, it would cover the state’s portion through fiscal year 2026, according to projections.  Among the revenue proposals moving forward is a tax on digital downloads of products like music, books and movies, taxing digital advertising and increasing the tobacco tax.

COVID-19

The legislature passed three bills to address the coronavirus pandemic, including authorizing Governor Larry Hogan to draw up to $100 million from the state’s “rainy day” fund and extending temporary unemployment benefits to those who lose or leave their jobs because of the public health crisis.

The legislation allows the state to extend temporary unemployment benefits to workers who have to be quarantined or whose employers temporarily close. The legislation also makes people eligible for benefits when they have to leave their jobs due to risk of exposure or to care for an infected relative.

The bill takes other steps to address the pandemic’s impact in Maryland. It will cut costs for screening tests, improve access to telehealth services, prohibit price gouging and make it illegal for an employer to fire a worker because he or she is quarantined.