Maryland Headlines


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AOBA member support is needed for legislation that would eliminate potentially troublesome provisions from Prince George’s County’s security deposit law that vary from state law.  Councilman Derrick Leon Davis (D-6) has introduced the bill, CB-63-2014, in order to conform county law to state law regarding notice provisions and interest due on security deposits.

County and state laws have diverged in two important respects concerning security deposits:

  • Interest Rates – Prior to 2004, state and county laws both required a four percent interest rate to be paid on residential security deposits.  However, in 2004 the state rate was changed to three percent.  As a result of recent changes to state law, effective January 1, 2015 the interest rate payable will be a market rate based on the greater of: (1) the U.S. Treasury yield curve rate for one year as of the first business day of the year; or (2) 1.5 percent.
  • Notice – Prior to 1999, state and county laws both required a rental housing provider to give notice to a former tenant within 30 days after a lease ended detailing any damages or costs incurred if the owner intended to withhold any portion of the security deposit.  State law was changed in 1999 to provide the notice by 45 days after the end of the tenancy – the same deadline for returning the security deposit with interest to the former tenant.

Prince George’s County is the only jurisdiction we are aware of with security deposit interest rate and notice provisions that vary from the state law.  This is not an academic clean-up exercise, as the unwary rental housing provider in Prince George’s County could risk litigation, treble damages and loss of any ability to withhold security deposits if they fail to observe the correct law.

AOBA urges members with residential rental properties in Prince George’s County to contact Council members to support CB-63-2014.  The bill will be considered by the Committee on Transportation, Housing and the Environment shortly after Labor Day.  Contact Ron Wineholt for further information at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org .

 

 

Owners of more than 250,000 residential rental units in Maryland must act before Jan. 1, 2015 to comply with state legislation extending provisions of the Lead Risk Reduction in Housing Act to properties built from 1950 to before 1978.  Owners of pre-1950 residential rental properties are already subject to the law.

Initial compliance will be time consuming, so owners and managers of multifamily rental properties are advised to contact certified inspectors and contractors as soon as possible to begin the compliance process. Unless the property is certified as lead-free by an inspector, requirements include:

  • Registering with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and payment of $30 annually for each rental unit;
  • Distributing an information packet to new tenants and every 2 years thereafter regarding lead paint;
  • Having lead paint inspections prior to changes in tenancy;
  • Meeting risk reduction standards to abate any chipping, flaking or peeling paint in the interior or exterior of the property; and
  • Obtaining a verification inspection certificate showing that the risk reduction standards were met.

Substantial penalties ($20 per unit per day) can be applied to properties that are not in compliance by January 1, 2015. The Department is now accepting registration applications for rental properties and has posted information about the program.

For more information see:

  • Lead paint compliance information from MDE
  • A list of certified contractors and inspectors. Also check AOBA’s membership directory for associate members that are certified to perform lead paint consulting and inspections.

 

 

 

 

The College Park City Council voted 5 to 3 to end the City’s 9-year experiment with rent control, effective September 1.  The rent control ordinance was enacted in 2005 in an effort to slow the conversion of single family owner-occupied housing to rental properties by making rentals less profitable.  The ordinance only applied to dwellings with 4 or fewer rental units.

Repeal proponents on the Council noted that since the ordinance was originally enacted, thousands of additional rental housing units had been constructed in multifamily dwellings in the City and on the campus of the University of Maryland.  One Councilman also noted that the City was experiencing increased housing vacancy and thousands of dollars of litigation costs in defending the law.

As a result of College Park’s action, the City of Takoma Park remains the last and only jurisdiction in Maryland still imposing rent control.

Maryland’s primary election offered few surprises as incumbent elected officials largely cruised to reelection on June 24.  Of the 76 Maryland candidates supported by AOBA’s Metropolitan Political Action Committee (METPAC), 67 advanced to the general election that will be held on November 4.  See the full primary election results .

State

In the Governor’s race, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown easily outpaced Democratic competitors Doug Gansler and Heather Mizeur to face Republican winner Larry Hogan in November.  Attorney General candidate Brian Frosh likewise prevailed by wide margins over Democratic challengers Jon Cardin and Aisha Braveboy to face Republican nominee Jeffrey Pritzker in November.

The Maryland General Assembly faces at least a 30 percent turnover due to retirements and the 11 incumbents who lost in the primary.  The casualties included Senate Minority leader David Brinkley (R-4) and Senator Rich Colburn (R- 37).  Incumbent House members who lost in the primary were Delegates Elliott (R-5), Swain (D-24), Dwyer (R-31B), Smigiel (R-36), Tarrant (D-40), Boteler (R-42B), Mitchell (D-44A), Stukes (44A) and Summers (47A).

Montgomery

With 45 percent of the vote, County Executive Ike Leggett easily held off challenges from former Executive Doug Duncan and Councilman Phil Andrews.  Incumbent at-large Council members Elrich, Floreen, Leventhal and Reimer won their Democratic primaries, as well incumbent Council members Berliner (D-1), Rice (D-2) and Navarro (D-4).  Sidney Katz won the Democratic nomination for the District 3 Council seat and faces no opponent in November.  In the hotly contested District 5 Democratic Council race, Tom Hucker leads Evan Glass by 217 votes before counting absentee and provisional ballots.

Prince George’s

County Executive Rushern Baker was unopposed and will return for four more years, as well as unopposed Council incumbents Lehman (D-1), Harrison (D-5), Patterson (D-8) and Franklin (D-9).  Incumbent Council members Derrick Leon Davis (D-6) and Karen Toles (D-7) won by wide margins, as well as newcomers Danielle Glaros (D-3) and Todd Turner (D-4).  The Democratic District 2 Council seat race remains tight, with Doyle Neimann leading Deni Teveras by 18 votes before counting absentee and provisional ballots.

 

The Town of Riverdale Park (Prince George’s County, MD) has postponed the implementation of a business license fee that was scheduled to annually charge multifamily rental housing providers $100 per rental unit.  The ordinance was enacted as 2013-OR-06 .  This business license fee would have been in addition to the Town’s annual rental licensing fee of $100 per rental unit.  It appears that the Mayor and Council may reconsider the business license fee as it relates to apartment owners.

AOBA will urge the Mayor and Council to repeal this new business license fee on rental housing providers before it takes effect.  If you own or manage multifamily rental property in Riverdale Park, please contact Ron Wineholt at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org .

A staff report to the Bowie City Council on June 16 attempted to throw cold water on the ideas of imposing rent control or creating rent subsidies for senior tenants.  However, seniors in attendance and the seven-member Council pushed back, expressing dissatisfaction with the limited options and pressing staff for more ways to help senior tenants in the city with housing costs.

The report had been compiled in response to requests last November by three groups of senior tenants expressing concern regarding their inability to afford current rents and absorb rent increases in the city.  The individuals are residents of The Willows and Evergreen Estates, market-rate senior living apartments, as well as the federally-subsidized Pin Oak Village.

The nearly 200-page report cited other studies and recounted the many problems caused by rent control.  It also observed that no other local government in Maryland provides senior rent subsidies and that such a program would be cost prohibitive.  Staff therefore recommended against the adoption of either program.

Several dozen seniors packed the Council room and four spoke in favor of further action for senior rental assistance.  Each of the seven Council members expressed support for further action, although none explicitly endorsed rent control.  It appears likely that the Council will establish a work group to review further options in upcoming months, along with staff and stakeholders.

Earlier this year the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) was the subject of a critical audit from the State Legislative Auditor, who criticized the agency for not inspecting properties, failing to audit tax credits and several other issues.  The General Assembly enacted legislation requiring a workgroup to examine issues raised by the Legislative Auditor.

The workgroup will examine the need for physical inspections of real properties, the Department’s ability to timely reflect changes in property status, discrepancies in the calculation of tax credits and exemptions, and the need for third party audits of tax credits and exemptions.  The workgroup will be chaired by the Director of SDAT, and include representation from local governments and state agencies.  A final report of the workgroup is due Dec. 15, 2014.  AOBA will monitor the workgroup’s activities, including their first meeting in Annapolis on June 17.

Eight days of early voting in Maryland’s primary election begin next Thursday, June 12.  The primary election date is Tuesday, June 24.  Virtually all federal, state and county offices in Maryland will be up for election and in many cases the primary winner will face limited competition in the November 4 general election.  For this 4-year election cycle, AOBA’s Maryland Metropolitan Political Action Committee met numerous times to evaluate races and disburse nearly $80,000 to promote business friendly candidates.  See early voting information .

The Montgomery and Prince George’s County Councils approved capital and operating budgets for WSSC that include a 5.5 percent increase in water and sewer rates effective July 1 for county areas served by the utility.  The rate increase is the lowest since 2007 and is the result of the Councils’ effort to moderate rate increases.  As customers conserve, the amount of water produced annually by WSSC has declined.The fiscal year 2015 budget includes:

  • $26 million for the large diameter Pre-stressed Concrete Cylinder Pipe (PCCP) program to provide inspections of the PCCP and monitoring to detect weaknesses. This includes funding to establish a program to inspect, repair and replace large valves.
  • Replacement of 55 miles, and repair or relining of 5 miles of smaller mains, house connections and large meters and vaults.
  • $114 million in sewer rehabilitation in environmentally sensitive areas.

AOBA members recently held their quarterly meeting with Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III and his staff to discuss local issues of mutual interest.  Newly-appointed County Chief Administrative Officer Nicholas Majett stopped by the meeting to introduce himself and offer his assistance to AOBA members.  Attendees received an update from County Director of Housing and Community Development Eric Brown on the implementation of CB-27-2013, Conversion of Rental Housing.  Director Brown indicated that revised regulations will be released this month and an implementing resolution will be sent to the Council shortly recommending that the law be implemented countywide.

Members also discussed ongoing concerns regarding fire inspections, invoices and fees.  Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Barry Stanton and Special Assistant Corey Smedley committed to help resolve the concerns.  Other agenda items covered included municipal property tax classification and rent control authority and the pending CB-17-2014, Senior Rental Leases.

 

Prince George’s County Councilman Will Campos has introduced CB-17-2014, which would require residential rental property owners, effective January 1, 2015, to offer leases and renewals with a 3-year term to a tenant who is at least age 55 at the time the lease or renewal is offered.  The senior tenant could agree to a shorter lease term.  This bill is assigned to the Committee on Transportation, Housing and the Environment and has not yet been scheduled for a work session.

The sponsor introduced the bill in an effort to promote affordable housing for elderly residents of rental housing.  We are asking members to review the bill and provide input that we can share with the sponsor.  Issues raised by some members include the age 55 threshold, the importance of not tracking the age of residents, an overly-lengthy 3-year lease term and the possible need for lender approval of multi-year leases.  AOBA members with Montgomery County residential rental properties indicate that only a small percentage of residents elect a 2-year lease which is required to be offered under county law. Contact Ron Wineholt for further details at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org .

Prince George’s County Council Chair Mel Franklin wants members' advice regarding how to improve the County’s business climate.  In a recent letter to area business organizations, Franklin encouraged individual businesses and organizations “to be candid and direct about the challenges and recommendations regarding our local business climate” from your perspective and experience.

“Whether there are issues related to permitting, taxes and fees, zoning, regulations, or other aspects of our county government’s role in creating an effective and healthy business climate, please share your best ideas and recommendations without hesitation and with as much policy specificity and support as possible”, said Franklin.  All responses will be shared with the Council and made available to the public.

Please provide any suggestions by July 14, 2014 by email to mfranklin1@co.pg.md.us with a cc to clerkofthecouncil@co.pg.md.usSee the full letter from Council Chair Franklin.

Join your Maryland colleagues!On Thursday, April 24, AOBA will co-sponsor, in conjunction with the Greater Capital Association of Realtors (GCAAR) and the Maryland-National Capital Building Industry Association, a real estate-focused County Executive candidate forum in Rockville, MD. Registration begins at 4:00pm; the Forum runs from 4:30 to 6:00pm and a reception follows at 6:000pm. Incumbent Isiah Leggett and his two challengers in the Democratic primary, former County Executive Doug Duncan and current Councilmember Phil Andrews (D-3), have all confirmed their participation. RSVP by emailing Pascha Francis, pfrancis@aoba-metro.org or calling 202.296.3390.

 

The Maryland General Assembly ended its 90 day session with several wins for AOBA members.  Much of AOBA’s legislative effort is directed to stopping the enactment of legislation that would harm our members.  Here is a recap of some of the important issues that AOBA fought for and against, and their outcomes.  A more comprehensive summary will follow as soon as bills are reprinted.

Bills Enacted

Dog LiabilitySB 247 and HB 73 - AOBA had worked for the past two years with other rental housing providers and dog advocates to convince legislators of the need to establish rational, breed neutral standards for dog liability.    The bills will restore rental housing owners to the common law standard of liability for injuries or death caused by a dog that existed prior to the 2012 Tracey v. Solesky decision of the Court of Appeals.  The Court’s Solesky decision declared pure bred pit bulls to be inherently dangerous and imposed strict liability on dog owners and rental housing owners for their damages.

Under SB 247 and HB 73 there will be a rebuttable presumption that a dog owner knew or should have known of the dangerous propensities of their dog.  The dog owner will also be strictly liable, with certain exceptions, for death or injuries caused when their dog is running at large.   Liability will be imposed on rental housing owners if it could be proven that they had knowledge of the dog’s presence on the leased premises, knowledge of its vicious propensities, and maintained control over the leased premises.

Interest on Security Deposits - HB 249 and SB 345 will replace the 3% interest rate on security deposits with a floating rate with a floor of 1.5 percent. Effective prospectively on January 1, 2015, interest payable on residential security deposits will be the greater of (1) the U.S. Treasury yield curve rate as of the first day of the year; or (2) 1.5 percent.  Rental property owners will be entitled to rely on the rate calculator posted on the website of the State Department of Housing and Community Development.  AOBA had long supported the enactment of legislation to provide a more reasonable, market-based interest rate.

Minimum WageHB 295 will phase-in an increase to the state minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by July of 2018.  Although AOBA opposed the legislation, higher local minimum wage laws in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, effective October 1, will supersede the scheduled state rate increases.

Retaliatory Actions – AOBA had opposed SB 800 , which will enable tenants to bring retaliatory action claims notwithstanding having more than 3 judgments for possession filed for late payment of rent within the past 12 months.  Currently such an action is barred if there have been 3 judgments for possession filed within the past 12 months.

Balcony Inspections – AOBA had opposed SB 401 and supported HB 947 with amendments.  As enacted, the bills will require local governments to establish programs for the inspection of balconies that are primarily constructed of wood at least every 5 years to ensure that the balcony railings meet the requirements of the local housing code or the minimum livability code.

Bills That Failed

  • Rent Control - AOBA led the opposition to SB 904 , which would have imposed statewide rent control, required just cause in order to not renew a tenant’s lease and established an Office of Tenant Advocate.  Over $1.2 billion in new fees would have been imposed on owners of rental housing.

  • Disclosure of Smart Meter Data – AOBA opposed several bills (HB 331 and HB 332) (SB 280 and SB 880)  that could have allowed the disclosure of smart meter data without a customer’s consent for purposes of supporting customer choice.
  • Court Fee Surcharge - SB 32 and HB 108 would have imposed another surcharge on court filing fees, including $3 for each summary ejectment, costing rental housing providers over $1.6 million, and were successfully opposed by AOBA.
  • Source of Income – AOBA opposed HB 366 , which would have made it a discriminatory practice for a rental housing provider to refuse to rent to an individual based on the source of their income and forced all rental housing providers to participate in the federal Section 8 voucher program.
  • LLC Company Representative – AOBA led the opposition to HB 268 , which would have required every LLC doing business in Maryland to appoint a company representative, and include the individual’s name, address, telephone number and email address in the articles of organization.

  • False Claims – AOBA successfully opposed HB 867 , which would have increased lawsuit liability for any company doing business with the state or a county government.

  • Criminal Records Shielding - HB 1166 and SB 1056 would have enabled persons convicted of certain misdemeanors to shield those criminal records from public access, an issue opposed by AOBA.

  • Municipal Tax Authority – AOBA supported HB 492 , which would have limited the authority of municipalities to place burdensome property taxes on narrowly-drawn classes of real property.  Although an amended version of the bill passed the House unanimously, it became entangled in film tax credit politics in the Senate and subsequently died.

  • Rent Control Studies - SB 595 and HB 1407 , bills supported by AOBA, would have required a state fiscal and economic impact study before a local government could enact a rent control ordinance.
  • Commercial Lease Breach - HB 408 , supported by AOBA, would have granted commercial property owners more flexibility in negotiating breach of lease notice terms in leases.  Although the bill passed the House unanimously, the issue met its demise when the Senate cross-filed bill, SB 268, was defeated on a close vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
  • Sick Leave Mandate - SB 753 and HB 968 , opposed by AOBA, would have established detailed requirements for every employer with more than 9 employees to provide sick leave as a fringe benefit.
  • Split Property Tax Rates – AOBA successfully led the opposition to SB 627 and HB 1279, which would have granted counties unlimited discretion to set property tax classes and tax rates in special tax districts created to underwrite the cost of transportation operating and capital costs.
The Maryland General Assembly entered the final week of its 2014 session with several bills of interest to AOBA members still in play.  The session will end at midnight on Monday, April 7.  AOBA's VP for Advocacy - Maryland Ron Wineholt has outlined the status of key bills impacting members: 
Dog LiabilitySB 247 and HB 73 have each passed the Senate and House, respectively, in identical form.  The bills would restore rental housing owners to the common law standard of liability for injuries or death caused by a dog.  HB 73 will be on the Senate floor Tuesday and should be finally enacted by mid-week.

Municipal Tax ClassesHB 492 would provide that a municipality could only establish tax classes in an ordinance separate from the annual budget ordinance, giving more transparency to the process and better allowing impacted taxpayers to defend against such actions.  The bill has passed the House and is awaiting a vote in the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee.

False ClaimsHB 867 would increase lawsuit exposure to any company doing business with the state or a county.  The bill has passed the House and is likely to come out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee with amendments. 
Minimum WageHB 187 , HB 295 and SB 331 – The Senate Finance Committee remains likely to report a bill out with amendments to lengthen the phase-in schedule for increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.  The higher local minimum wage laws in Montgomery and Prince George’s County, effective October 1, would supersede any likely state rate increase.

Interest on Security DepositsHB 249 and SB 345 would replace the 3% interest rate on security deposits with a floating rate with a floor of 1.5%.  Both bills have passed their house of origin and await action in the opposite house.

Balcony InspectionsHB 947 and SB 401 – The House and Senate have passed very different versions of this bill, with the House bill being the least restrictive.  Both bills limit the new inspections to wooden railings on balconies and will likely go to conference. 
Retaliatory EvictionsSB 800 and HB 1108 – The Senate has passed SB 800, which as amended would extend from 6 months to 12 months the period of time following a tenant’s protected action (e.g. reporting  a health violation) that an owner’s action to evict would be deemed retaliation and subject to penalties.  The House Environmental Matters Committee has yet to act on this issue. 
Criminal Records ShieldingHB 1166 and SB 1056 have both been passed out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee with amendments.  The bills would allow under limited circumstances an individual to petition for the removal from the Judiciary’s website of a record for certain criminal misdemeanors following a waiting period of at least 3 years after the conclusion of their probation.

With two weeks remaining in the 2014 session of the Maryland General Assembly, a number of bills remain in play, including: Dog Liability – bills have each passed the Senate and House, in identical form.  The bills would restore rental housing owners to the common law standard of liability for injuries or death caused by a dog.  Each bill  ( SB 247 and HB 7) awaits action in the opposite house. Also, Municipal Tax ClassesHB 492 will be heard in Senate Budget & Taxation Committee.  As passed by the House, it would provide that a municipality could only establish tax classes in an ordinance separate from the annual budget ordinance.  This would give more transparency to the process and better allow impacted taxpayers to defend against such actions. Other bills include:

  • False ClaimsHB 867 will receive a hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Tuesday.  This bill would increase lawsuit exposure to any company doing business with the state or a county.
  • Minimum WageHB 187 , HB 295 and SB 331 – Although the legislation to increase the state minimum wage is likely to pass, debate continues in the Senate Finance Committee regarding how much of an increase is appropriate and what phase-in schedule should be used.
  • Interest on Security DepositsHB 249 and SB 345 – These bills would replace the 3% interest rate on security deposits with a floating rate with a floor of 1.5%.  The House bill has passed the House.  For the first time in years, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee finally voted out the Senate bill, so there is cause for hope on this issue.
  • Balcony InspectionsHB 947 and SB 401 – The House and Senate have passed very different versions of this bill, with the House bill being the least restrictive.  Both bills limit the new inspections to wooden railings on balconies and will likely go to conference.
  • Retaliatory EvictionsSB 800 and HB 1108 – The Senate has passed SB 800, which as amended would extend from 6 months to 12 months the period of time following a tenant’s protected action (e.g. reporting  a health violation) that an owner’s action to evict would be deemed retaliation and subject to penalties.  The House Environmental Matters Committee has yet to act on this issue.
  • Criminal Records ShieldingHB 1166 and SB 1056 – The House has passed a weakened version of the bill that allows under limited circumstances an individual to petition for the removal from the Judiciary’s website of a record for certain criminal misdemeanors.  There has been no action yet on the Senate bill.

The Maryland House and Senate were moving bills quickly to beat the self-imposed “crossover” deadline of March 17.  Bills passed by either house after that date will be assigned to the Rules committees, losing time with only three weeks remaining in the 2014 Maryland General Assembly session.

Several bills are moving that are favorable to AOBA’s members:

  • It appears that the long awaited resolution to dog liability will finally happen this year, with SB 247 and HB 73 having passed the Senate and House in identical form.  Both bills would restore rental housing owners to the common law standard of liability for death or injury caused by dogs.
  • HB 492 has passed the House, requiring municipalities to only adopt tax classes as part of an ordinance that is separate from the budget ordinance.  This will provide affected property owners more opportunity to influence and defend against such legislation and require more transparency for the tax classification process.
  • Commercial building owners were amended out of SB 781, which would have imposed onerous requirements for recycling programs.

Fortunately, several bills are no longer moving, having received unfavorable reports, including:

  • Source of income mandates
  • Just cause eviction
  • Disclosure of customer data from smart meters
  • Prohibition on requiring a rental housing owner as a named insured on tenant’s insurance
  • Prohibition on requiring prospective tenants to provide Social Security numbers

 

 

AOBA sponsored bills will be heard the week of March 10 that would require a state fiscal and economic impact study before a local government could enact a rent control ordinance.  Currently two municipalities in Maryland (College Park and Takoma Park) have rent control ordinances in place, and the threat of other municipalities or counties imposing rent control is real.  Because rent control causes a loss of state and local property tax revenues, shifts tax burdens and can skew state aid formulas, the state has an interest in monitoring such actions.  Help avoid new rent control laws in Maryland. The bills are: SB 595 and HB 1407. Contact Ron Wineholt at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org if you would like to help support this important legislation.

The Maryland Senate narrowly advanced an emergency bill in an effort to overturn a court ruling holding dog owners and rental housing providers strictly liable for damages caused by pure bred pit bulls.  Although SB 247 passed second reading in the Senate, a floor amendment was adopted on a 25 to 22 vote that would hold the owner of a dog running at large liable for injury, death or loss to a person or property caused by the dog.  It is unclear to what degree this amendment will jeopardize the bill’s fate in the House of Delegates.

As with last year’s bill, this bill would create a rebuttable presumption, in cases involving personal injury or death caused by a dog, that the owner knew or should have known of the vicious or dangerous propensities of the dog.  For AOBA members, the bill would restore the pre-Solesky common law standard of liability for third parties such as rental housing providers.  Under common law, a property owner would be held liable for damages caused by a tenant’s dog if it could be proven that the property owner had knowledge of the dog’s presence on the leased premises and its vicious propensities, and maintained control over the leased premises.

At AOBA’s request, legislation has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to make it more difficult for municipal corporations to impose discriminatory tax rates on multifamily rental and commercial property owners. While most municipal governments impose one real property tax rate on all real property owners, several municipalities in Prince George’s County have adopted classified tax rates with higher levies on multifamily rental and commercial property owners.  If you own property in Berwyn Heights, Cheverly, New Carrollton or North Brentwood, you are paying those higher tax rates.

HB 492 would require that municipal tax classes be adopted in an ordinance that is separate from the budget, allowing affected property owners a better opportunity to contest the ordinance.  The bill would also limit the eligible tax classes to those specified in state law, so a municipality would no longer be able to target one small segment of its tax base for higher property taxation.

The bill will be heard on Feb. 13 at 1:00pm in the House Ways & Means Committee. AOBA will support the bill but needs additional support in the form of letters and witnesses from our members.  Contact Ron Wineholt at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org to help engage in support of this important bill.

 

Legislation has been introduced again this year in the Maryland General Assembly that would prohibit a rental housing provider from refusing to renew a lease without “just cause.” Sponsored by Senator Lisa Gladden (D-41), the bill would make it much more difficult for a rental housing provider to remove a problem tenant.  Unless the tenant failed to pay rent when due, made a substantial breach of the terms of the lease, or met specified other just cause criteria, the rental housing provider would be barred from evicting the tenant.  SB 181 would cause more litigation for rental housing providers as tenants would contest the cause of their eviction.

AOBA will oppose this bill, which will be heard by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Thursday, Jan. 30 at 1:00 p.m.  We would welcome AOBA members testifying against the bill and submitting testimony in opposition to the legislation. Contact Ron Wineholt for further details at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org.

If you ever plan to buy or sell multifamily rental housing in Prince George’s County you must read this.

The Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is offering interested parties until Monday, Jan. 27 at 4:00 p.m. to offer comments on regulations issued to implement CB-27-2013, the County’s Right of First Refusal (ROFR) law.  The regulations may be viewed on the agency’s website .  See the law as a point of reference.  We strongly urge members with property in Prince George’s County and their attorneys to review these regulations, which would add new layers of burdens to a law that significantly impairs property owners’ rights in the County and has already delayed pending sales.

AOBA will offer comments to the County objecting to many aspects of the regulations.  We urge you to file comments with DHCD Director Eric Brown by email at ecbrown@co.pg.md.us or by mail to Eric C. Brown, Director, Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development, 9200 Basil Court, Suite 500, Largo, MD 20774.  Please copy Ron Wineholt on your comments and feel free to share questions or suggestions in advance.  You should also copy your views to County Executive Rushern Baker at countyexecutive@co.pg.md.us or by mail at 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772.

Recall that CB-27-2013 was enacted last July and was effective September 23.  However, the law stated that the right of first refusal provisions would only be applicable after the Council adopts a resolution specifying areas of the County in which the ROFR would be effective.  Meanwhile parts of the law are currently in effect requiring notice to tenants and DHCD within 5 days of signing a sales contract on multifamily rental housing.  The regulations as proposed are not consistent with the law in many respects and unduly burden the right of a property owner to sell their property.  Contact Ron Wineholt for further details at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org .

 

As required by the State Constitution, the Maryland General Assembly opens its 2014 session on Jan. 8 with many legislators looking ahead to this year’s early election schedule.  The filing deadline for candidates for state and county offices will be on Feb. 25, with the primary election on June 24.  The general election will be held on Nov. 4.  AOBA maintains an Annapolis office year-round to support its lobbying efforts.  AOBA’s Maryland Legislative and Regulatory Issues Committee will meet weekly during the session to take positions on important bills.  To get engaged, please contact Ron Wineholt, rwineholt@aoba-metro.org.

 

 

Key legislators will again introduce emergency legislation at the 2014 session of the Maryland General Assembly in an effort to overturn a court ruling holding dog owners and rental housing providers strictly liable for damages caused by pure bred pit bulls.  Delegate Luiz Simmons has introduced HB 73 , which will be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 23.  Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian Frosh is expected to file identical Senate legislation shortly.

Two previous efforts to replace the Court of Appeals decision in Tracey v. Solesky proved unsuccessful as the Senate and House of Delegates could not agree on a breed neutral standard of liability for damages caused by dogs.  While this year’s bill is similar to last year’s legislation, there seems to be a renewed commitment by legislators to keep controversial amendments off of the bill and to resolve this issue.

As with last year’s bill, this bill would create a rebuttable presumption, in cases involving personal injury or death caused by a dog, that the owner knew or should have known of the vicious or dangerous propensities of the dog.  For AOBA members, the bill would restore the pre-Solesky common law standard of liability for third parties such as rental housing providers.  Under common law, a property owner would be held liable for damages caused by a tenant’s dog if it could be proven that the property owner had knowledge of the dog’s presence on the leased premises and its vicious propensities, and maintained control over the leased premises.

In a related development, the Department of Legislative Services issued a report detailing the relative infrequency of serious injuries caused by dogs in Maryland since 2005.  Dog bites represented about one percent of treat and release visits to hospital emergency departments and less than two-tenths of one percent of hospitalizations.  The report will certainly be cited in the upcoming legislative debate on dog liability standards.

 

 

The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) will accept grant applications through Jan. 15, 2014 from owners of commercial and multifamily properties in Maryland to help fund projects that will reduce their electricity costs.  MEA will provide competitive grant awards to implement and showcase ambitious upgrades to commercial and industrial buildings that reduce electricity usage by an estimated 20 percent or more. Maryland businesses are encouraged to submit a grant application for coverage of up to 50 percent of project costs after other incentives. Grant decisions will be announced in March.

For details on eligibility and requirements, as well as the grant application form and instructions, please visit MEA’s website. Contact Dan Seligman of the Maryland Energy Administration for further information at 410-260-2602 or dseligman@energy.state.md.us.

AOBA members considering buying or selling multifamily rental housing in Prince George’s County should review an interim advisory issued regarding the County’s new right of first refusal law.  The law, CB-27-2013, requires the owner of a multifamily rental facility of 20 or more units to notify tenants and the Director of the County Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) within five days of signing a contract of sale.  The notice must be on the form approved by the County and be provided to each occupied rental unit by hand delivery or certified mail, as well as posted in common areas.

Additionally, notice of the impending sale must be provided to the Director of DHCD by certified mail on an affidavit affirming the notice to each tenant and posting in the facility’s common areas.  The Department will also require the owner to submit a copy of the notice provided to tenants, a current rent roll and a copy of the contract of sale.  The Director of DHCD will provide the owner a certificate of compliance within seven days of submitting the required materials.

The interim advisory is intended to provide guidance to buyers and sellers of multifamily rental housing until more formal regulations are adopted.  Compliance is important as the law voids all noncompliant sales contracts.

 

Provisions in the law granting the County a right of first refusal for sales of multifamily rental facilities will not be implemented until at least next year, after the County Council has passed and the County Executive approved a resolution specifying applicable areas of the County.

 

The Prince George’s County Council deferred action on a bill that would raise the minimum wage paid by county employers to $11.50 per hour by 2016.  CB-94-2013, sponsored unanimously by members of the Prince George’s County Council, was the subject of a lengthy Council hearing, with all but two of 23 witnesses opposing the bill.  Council Chair Andrea Harrison stated that although the bill still had the strong support of Council members, she would delay a vote on the bill until the week of Thanksgiving in order to better coordinate actions with the Montgomery County Council.  The Prince George’s County charter provides that bills fail unless enacted by the end of November.

The legislation would raise the minimum wage to $8.75 per hour for July 1, 2014, $10.25 per hour for July 1, 2015 and $11.50 per hour for July 1, 2016, with annual increases in subsequent years tied to the Consumer Price Index.  The bill was amended to exclude employees who are exempt from the State or Federal minimum wage laws, as well as individuals under the age of 18 who are employed no more than 20 hours in a week.

The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) is now accepting grant applications from owners of commercial and multifamily properties in Maryland to help fund projects that will reduce their electricity costs.  MEA will provide competitive grant awards to implement and showcase ambitious upgrades to commercial and industrial buildings that reduce electricity usage by an estimated 20 percent or more. Maryland businesses are encouraged to submit a grant application for coverage of up to 50 percent of project costs after other incentives. The window for applications closes Jan. 15, 2014; grant decisions will be announced in March.

For details on eligibility and requirements, as well as the grant application form and instructions, please visit MEA’s website. Contact Dan Seligman of the Maryland Energy Administration for further information at 410-260-2602 or dseligman@energy.state.md.us.

AOBA was successful in amending owners of multifamily rental properties out of a nuisance abatement bill pending before the Prince George’s County Council.  The bill, CB-77-2013, would expand the definition of a “nuisance” to include premises on or in which an owner, tenant or occupant acts in a disorderly manner to disturb the peace.  Fines of $500 for a first violation and $1,000 for a subsequent violation would be authorized and could be recorded as liens on the property.

AOBA expressed concerns that property owners would face potential fines for actions of tenants and that such fines could be imposed on the first occurrence.  The bill sponsor, Council member Eric Olson, addressed our concerns by amending multifamily rental properties from the bill.  Related legislation, CB-59-2013, would expand the definition of nuisances to include properties used to store illegal weapons, stolen property, contraband or other evidence of criminal activity at the premises.  Both bills (CB-77-2013 and CB-59-2013) have passed second reading and are scheduled for a public hearing before the full Council on Nov. 19 at 10:00.

Legislation to mandate an increased minimum wage for employers in Prince George’s County is advancing in the County Council. CB-94-2013, sponsored unanimously by members of the Prince George’s County Council, received a favorable report from the Public Safety and Fiscal Management Committee.  The bill was amended to exclude employees who are exempt from the State or Federal minimum wage laws, as well as individuals under the age of 18 who are employed no more than 20 hours in a week.

The legislation would raise the minimum wage to $8.75 per hour for July 1, 2014, $10.25 per hour for July 1, 2015 and $11.50 per hour for July 1, 2016, with annual increases in subsequent years tied to the Consumer Price Index.  See AOBA’s statement of opposition. The bill will have a public hearing before the full Council in early November.

Bills to impose a minimum wage of $11.50 per hour on all employers by July of 2016 were introduced in the Montgomery and Prince George’s County Councils, sponsored unanimously by members of the Prince George’s County Council and three members of the Montgomery County Council.  The bills have minor differences, but would phase-in the increased wage levels over three years, starting in July 1, 2014, and would tie annual increases in the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index effective July 1, 2017.  The bills are part of a coordinated effort to increase the minimum wage in those two counties and the District of Columbia.

Minimum wage levels in Maryland have traditionally been set by actions of the state and federal government.  The minimum wage under state law was set at $6.15 per hour in 2006, but was superseded by an increase in the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour in 2009.  AOBA and many other business groups opposed legislation to increase the state minimum wage at the 2013 session of the General Assembly, and the legislation failed.  However, pressure to increase the minimum wage is building with state and local elections in Maryland next year.   See the Montgomery and Prince George’s County bills.

Owners of commercial and multifamily properties in Maryland are eligible for grants to help fund projects that will reduce their electricity costs.  On Oct. 11 the Maryland Energy Administration will formally launch the EmPOWER Maryland Challenge, providing competitive grants to implement and showcase ambitious upgrades to commercial and industrial buildings that reduce electricity usage by 20 percent or more.

State grants will range from $20,000 to $500,000 and applications must be submitted before Jan. 15, 2014.  Projects must be completed by May of 2015.  Materials describing the program will be posted at http://energy.maryland.gov/Business/EmPOWERMDChallenge.

Contact Dan Seligman of the Maryland Energy Administration for further information at 410-260-2602 or dseligman@energy.state.md.us.

 

 

 

AOBA members owning property in Prince George’s County should note the upcoming deadline to appeal the Clean Water Act fee.  The fee is a line item on the County property tax bill. A property owner must file an appeal in writing by October 1 based on the following grounds:

  • Errors made regarding the impervious surface measurement of the property (applicable to multi-family residential and non-residential properties only)
  • Errors in the zoning classification of the property (applicable to single-family residential properties only)
  • Errors made regarding the mathematical calculation of the fee
  • Errors in the identification of the correct property owner

Completed forms can be emailed or mailed to the following:
DERRebatesandCredits@co.pg.md.us
Prince George’s County, Department of Environmental Resources
9400 Peppercorn Place, Suite 500, Largo, MD 20774

 

 

M


AOBA members should stay current with ongoing revisions to Form DC/CV 82, Failure to Pay Rent, as the District Court alters the form.  A recent notice advises filers that they must use the new June 11 version of the form by Nov. 1.  The Court is also previewing a draft of another update to the form that will be effective Jan. 1, 2014.  The latest revision is necessary to reflect legislation that will authorize a resident to deduct from rent payments amounts made to restore or prevent the termination of utility service when the rental community owner responsible for utility payments defaults.  Comments may be provided to Polly.Harding@courts.state.md.us regarding the draft form by Sept. 17.

AOBA members recently held their quarterly meeting with Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III and his staff to discuss local issues of mutual interest.  Members expressed strong concern over the enactment of CB-27, which will require owners of multifamily housing to grant a right of first refusal to the County before selling a property with more than 20 units. Although implementation of the legislation is deferred until a resolution is later enacted, members made clear that the legislation damages the County’s business climate and makes owners of multifamily rental housing less likely to do business in the County.  County Executive Baker offered to work with AOBA members and asked for our input in developing implementing regulations for the program.

Haitham Hijazi, Director of the Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement (DPIE), led a discussion of the Department’s proposed procedures for rental licensing renewal.  The Department has required current Use & Occupancy permits for all multifamily housing for the past two years, causing a hardship for many owners of older properties that may now be a nonconforming use.  Dr. Hijazi will meet with AOBA members to help resolve their U&O problems and receive feedback for the proposed procedures.  The meeting concluded with Dr. Hijazi providing attendees a tour of the new DPIE public service areas.  Contact Ron Wineholt at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org for more information.

Gov. Martin O’Malley named eleven members to a Maryland task force that will study and make recommendations on the feasibility of creating regional transit financing districts and local-option revenues for transportation.  The mandate for the task force was enacted as part of HB 1515 during the 2013 Maryland General Assembly session, which increased state taxes on motor fuels.

The task force will be chaired by the Governor’s former Chief of Staff, Matt Gallagher, and includes state and local officials and legislators.  The task force is to report its recommendations by Dec. 15, 2013.  AOBA staff will closely monitor the work of the task force to ensure that commercial property owners in Maryland are not burdened with discriminatory property taxes.  See a full list of the task force members .

Flanked by numerous state and local elected officials, Governor Martin O’Malley recently announced nearly $1.7 billion in transportation projects designed to serve Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.  The funding for the projects results from the enactment of HB 1515 during the 2013 Maryland General Assembly session, which imposed a sales tax on motor fuels estimated to yield nearly $2 billion statewide over the next five years.

O’Malley pledged $400 million for construction of the 16-mile Purple line as a public-private partnership serving the Bethesda to New Carrollton corridor with light rail service.  See the full list of Montgomery and Prince George's county projects that were announced.

Semiannual campaign contribution disclosure reports are due to be filed with the State Board of Elections by Aug. 5 by certain entities that employ a registered Maryland lobbyist or do business with the state or a local government in Maryland.  The Maryland Public Ethics Law requires the reports to be filed by August 5 reporting contributions made for the period Feb. 1 through July 31.  Entities that must file are those that during the period:

  • Compensated a lobbyist registered in Maryland more than $500; or
  • Did business with the state or a local government in Maryland involving consideration of over $100,000.

If the entity or its subsidiaries met either of the above criteria, a report must be filed that lists any contributions to a candidate or incumbent office holder for Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, or member of the General Assembly of over $500 by the entity, its subsidiaries, officers, directors and partners.  A similar report for the period Aug. 1 through Jan. 31 will be due Feb. 5, 2014.  Contact Ron Wineholt for further info at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org .

The County Nuisance Abatement Board would have new and expanded powers to sanction property owners under a bill which is passing the County Council with broad support. This bill would add residential properties to an expanded nuisance law, enabling the Board to enjoin, fine and imprison property owners that it finds have allowed certain drug, prostitution or gang-related nuisances to exist on their property and have not cooperated with the County’s attempts to abate the nuisance. Actions of the Board may be appealed to the Circuit Court. The bill number is CB-26-2013.

Councilmember Mel Franklin sponsored amendments recommended by AOBA that will require the Board to mail a copy of the County Attorney’s complaint to the property owner at least ten days prior to the Board’s hearing. The amendments will also require the Board to stay its proceedings against the property owner if the tenant is the basis of the complaint and the owner has filed a complaint in the District Court to evict the tenant.

 


Legislation to grant Prince George’s County sweeping control over future sales and conversions of multifamily rental housing passed the County Council on second reading in a scaled back form.   As introduced, CB-27-2013 would have required all sellers of more than 10 units of multifamily rental housing in Prince George’s County to either: (1) agree to not convert the use of their property for 3 years; or (2) grant the County a right of first refusal to purchase the property.

However, an amendment by Councilman Mel Franklin was adopted in Committee to limit the right of first refusal to areas of the County specifically designated by resolution of the County Council with the concurrence of the County Executive.  The County Office of Law has determined that this amendment would have the effect of delaying the entire bill until such a resolution was subsequently adopted.  Given the contentious nature of this issue, it is uncertain when, if ever, an implementing resolution would be introduced.

AOBA was the sole witness against the bill, arguing that the legislation infringed on property rights, would cause uncertainty and delays in multifamily rental housing sales, and would result in unreimbursed damages for buyers when the County exercised a right of first refusal.

The bill, sponsored by Council Member Mary Lehman, was also amended to limit its provisions to sales of 20 or more units of multifamily rental housing.  The County would make an initial evaluation within 7 business days regarding whether to exercise their right to buy the property, but could exercise the right for up to 60 days and take another 120 days to obtain financing.

AOBA will continue to oppose CB-27 as amended, as the bill represents bad policy regardless of whether it is implemented in all or parts of the County.  A public hearing will be held on the bill Wednesday, July 24th at 10:00 a.m. in the Council Chambers in Upper Marlboro.  Thanks go to Councilmen Mel Franklin, Will Campos and Derrick Davis for helping AOBA limit damaging aspects of the bill.  Contact Ron Wineholt for further information at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org .

 

 

Three Montgomery County Council Committees (Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment/Planning, Housing and Economic Development) have scheduled a joint work session for July 15 on Bill 13-13, which would create an incentive for use of permeable paving materials. Councilmember Craig Rice (D-District 2) introduced Bill 13-13 to make the County Code actively encourage the provision of pervious pavement. AOBA invites member input in developing its position on the permeable pavement legislation.

The stormwater management provisions of the current County code require a property owner to minimize the impervious surface in a development. In special protection areas, water quality plans are not required, for example, when the impervious area is 8 percent of the site area or less. However, the definition of impervious area currently counts all pervious pavement area as an impervious surface.

Bill 13-13 would define permeable pavement, specifically allow its use as a method to limit impervious area and, most importantly, require the Department of Permitting Services Director to count no more than 25 percent of permeable pavement area toward any limit on impervious surface area.  Members are encouraged to send feedback to Shaun Pharr, spharr@aoba-metro.org. Here is a link to the bill: http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/pdf/bill/2013/Packets/20130618_9.pdf.

 

With the support of three witnesses from the Baker Administration, a Prince George’ County Council Committee on Thursday approved legislation that would give the County veto authority over every future sale of multifamily rental housing with more than 20 units. CB-27-2013, sponsored by Council Member Mary Lehman, also would require that multifamily rental housing owners grant the County a right of first refusal to purchase the property under certain circumstances. Thanks go to Council Member Mel Franklin for successfully offering an amendment that would limit the right of first refusal provision to areas of the County designated by a subsequent resolution of the Council with the concurrence of the County Executive.

AOBA was the sole witness against the bill, arguing that the legislation infringed on property rights, would cause uncertainty and delays in multifamily rental housing sales, and would result in unreimbursed damages for buyers when the County exercised a right of first refusal.
See AOBA’s testimony. Contact your County Council members if you oppose the bill. Contact Ron Wineholt for further information at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org .

CB-27 will likely come before the full County Council on July 2 for introduction, with a public hearing to be scheduled later in the month.

 

Revisions have been made to the Failure to Pay Rent form as a result of SB 642, effective June 1, 2013. This change only affects the Disposition section signed by the judge.
The revised form is availableat: http://www.courts.state.md.us/district/forms/civil/dccv082np.pdf

The statute reference, RP 7-112(b) was incorrect on the first printing of the DC/CV 82; the reference will be corrected to RP 8-216(b) on the next printing. The first printing of the DC/CV 82 forms is expected to be available at the District Court warehouse by June 1, 2013.  All filers must begin using the new 6/1/2013 version by Sept. 1, 2013. It is recommended not to order more than a supply that will last until Jan. 1, 2014 because the form will be revised again due to SB 849, and will be required on the effective date of Jan. 1, 2014.

If you have any questions regarding this form revision, please contact Polly Harding, Administrator of Administrative Services, at District Court Headquarters at 410-260-1638.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ron

 

Prince George’s County property owners would be subject to an annual stormwater remediation fee under CB-45-2013, which was filed this week with the County Council.  County Executive Rushern Baker is proposing the bill to comply with state legislation enacted by the General Assembly in 2012 requiring 10 metropolitan counties to adopt the fee by July 1, 2013.

AOBA members were briefed on the proposed fee at a recent meeting with County Executive Baker.  Adam Ortiz, Acting Director of the Department of Environmental Resources, explained that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Maryland to make significant reductions in nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment discharges by 2025.  Prince George’s County is expected to spend over $1.1 billion in stormwater fees, property taxes and private funds to meet that goal.  Phase 1 of the program will focus on reducing stormwater runoff from public rights of way by diverting water to filtering devices and rain gardens.

The fee is termed the Clean Water Act Fee.  It will be collected on the annual county property tax bill and be countywide, except in the City of Bowie (which will impose its own stormwater fee).  The fee will be used for a wide variety of purposes, including stormwater capital improvements, operation and maintenance of facilities, grants, and planning, mapping and inspecting stormwater management facilities.

The bill empowers the County Council to adopt a fee schedule by resolution.  County officials advise that the fee will be based on a flat fee per tax account and the amount of impervious surface on the account.  The Director of Environmental Resources will establish policies to reduce the fee for accounts that have facilities that reduce the quantity or improve the quality of stormwater discharged from the property.  Appeals of the fee may be filed in writing with the Director by October 1.  The charges include:

  • A flat fee of $20.58 per tax account; and
  • A graduated rate of $20.90 for every Equivalent Stormwater Unit (ESU) on the account.  One ESU equals 2,456 square feet of impervious area.

AOBA members should budget now for this new fee.  Note that the fee schedule described above could change due to amendments adopted by the County Council as the bill and resolution establishing the fee schedule are considered.  Based on information provided by County officials, a quick rule of thumb for estimating the cost of your fee would be to multiply $371 times each acre of impervious surface on your property and add to that $20.58 for each property tax account.  This proposed fee amount is less than other counties in part because it will supplement an existing 5.4 cent County property tax levy for stormwater management. More information about this fee will be provided to members as it becomes available.

 

 

Prince George’s County property owners would be subject to an annual stormwater remediation fee under legislation expected to be filed shortly with the County Council.  County Executive Rushern Baker is proposing the bill to comply with state legislation enacted by the General Assembly in 2012 requiring 10 metropolitan counties to adopt the fee by July 1, 2013.

AOBA members were briefed on the proposed fee at a recent meeting with County Executive Baker.  Adam Ortiz, Acting Director of the Department of Environmental Resources, explained that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Maryland to make significant reductions in nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment discharges by 2025.  Prince George’s County is expected to spend over $1.1 billion in stormwater fees, property taxes and private funds to meet that goal.  Phase 1 of the program will focus on reducing stormwater runoff from public rights of way by diverting water to filtering devices and rain gardens.

The stormwater remediation fee will be collected on the annual county property tax bill and be countywide, except in the City of Bowie (which will impose its own stormwater fee).  The fee will be based on a combination of a flat fee per tax account and the amount of impervious surface on the account.  The charges include:

  • A flat fee of $20.58 per tax account for operation and maintenance of the program; and
  • A graduated rate of $20.90 for every Equivalent Stormwater Unit (ESU) on the account for capital infrastructure.  One ESU equals 2,456 square feet of impervious area.

AOBA members should budget now for this new fee.  Note that the fee schedule described above could change due to amendments adopted by the County Council as the bill is considered.  Based on information provided by County officials, a quick rule of thumb for estimating the cost of your fee would be to multiply $371 times each acre of impervious surface on your property and add to that $20.58 for each property tax account.  This proposed fee amount is less than other counties in part because it will supplement an existing 5.4 cent County property tax levy for stormwater management. AOBA will provide more information about this fee as it becomes available.

 

 

 

Prince George’s County property owners would be subject to an annual stormwater remediation fee under legislation expected to be filed shortly with the County Council.  County Executive Rushern Baker is proposing the bill to comply with state legislation enacted by the General Assembly in 2012 requiring 10 metropolitan counties to adopt the fee by July 1, 2013.

AOBA members were briefed on the proposed fee at a recent meeting with County Executive Baker.  Adam Ortiz, Acting Director of the Department of Environmental Resources, explained that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Maryland to make significant reductions in nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment discharges by 2025.  Prince George’s County is expected to spend over $1.1 billion in stormwater fees, property taxes and private funds to meet that goal.  Phase 1 of the program will focus on reducing stormwater runoff from public rights of way by diverting water to filtering devices and rain gardens.

The stormwater remediation fee will be collected on the annual county property tax bill and be countywide, except in the City of Bowie (which will impose its own stormwater fee).  The fee will be based on a combination of a flat fee per tax account and the amount of impervious surface on the account.  The charges include:

  • A flat fee of $20.58 per tax account for operation and maintenance of the program; and
  • A graduated rate of $20.90 for every Equivalent Stormwater Unit (ESU) on the account for capital infrastructure.  One ESU equals 2,456 square feet of impervious area.

AOBA members should budget now for this new fee.  A quick rule of thumb for estimating the cost of your fee would be to multiply $371 times each acre of impervious surface on your property and add to that $20.58 for each property tax account.  This proposed fee amount is less than other counties in part because it will supplement an existing 5.4 cent County property tax levy for stormwater management.  We will provide more information about this fee as it becomes available.

 

 

 

Bills recently filed with the Prince George’s County Council seek to impose additional liability on owners of multifamily rental properties for nuisances and limit conversions of such properties to condominiums.  Although neither bill has been scheduled yet for a work session or public hearing, AOBA welcomes members’ thoughts on the bills and volunteers to testify before the Council.

CB-26  - Nuisances (Councilmember Franklin, et al)This bill would add residential properties to an expanded nuisance law, enabling the County Nuisance Abatement Board to enjoin, fine and imprison property owners that they find have allowed certain drug, prostitution or gang-related nuisances to exist on their property.  Actions of the Board may be appealed to the Circuit Court.  These actions are in addition to the existing authority of the State’s Attorney, under state law, to file suit to abate nuisances.  See a related  news story about the bill.

CB-27 – Conversion of Rental Housing (Councilmember Lehman) -  This bill would put extensive regulations and limits on condo conversions, demolitions or other actions that displace tenants or end the use of certain multifamily rental housing.  Property owners would be required to offer the County a right of first refusal to purchase the property unless a contract of sale contains a written agreement prohibiting the buyer from converting the property for at least three years.  These provisions would be in addition to existing state law that governs condo conversions.

Contact Ron Wineholt for further information at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org .

 

AOBA is pleased to provide members with our 2013 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Report, a summary of key legislation monitored and acted upon by AOBA during the 2013 Maryland legislative session.

Members have much at stake in the outcome of legislation debated in Annapolis - taxes, energy costs, property regulation and liability exposure all affect the cost of doing business.  AOBA continues to be successful in advocating on behalf of multifamily and commercial property owners and making a difference in the outcome of important legislation.

Sincere thanks to AOBA members who served on the Maryland Legislative and Regulatory Issues Committee, along with other members who were actively engaged on legislative issues.  If questions arise regarding any information included in this report or the positions taken by AOBA, please contact MD Vice President of Government Affairs Ron Wineholt at (301) 261-1460 or rwineholt@aoba-metro.org.

Note: The most recent Maryland At Issue item reporting on the fate of the dog liability bills inadvertently indicated that property owners could be liable for “injuries caused by a pit bull or mixed-breed pit bull” owned by a tenant.  While that was the standard announced by the Maryland Court of Appeals in the original Tracey decision, the Court reconsidered and issued a revised decision in August 2012 that limited the strict liability of owners only to “pure bred” pit bulls.

 

Although all bills concerning lead paint liability died at the 2013 Maryland General Assembly session, owners and managers of rental housing built before 1978 should start taking steps this year to meet the significant regulatory and financial requirements for lead paint that will be effective Jan. 1, 2015.  Legislation enacted in 2012 will extend Maryland’s lead paint law for rental properties built before 1950 to rental housing built before 1978.

Since there will likely be a shortage of companies in 2014 to perform the required lead paint testing by the Dec. 31, 2014 deadline, prudent owners and managers of multifamily rental properties will contact certified inspectors and contractors this year to begin the compliance process.  Unless the property is certified as lead-free by an inspector, requirements include:

  • Registration with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and payment of $30 annually for each rental unit.
  • Distributing an information packet to new tenants and every 2 years thereafter regarding lead paint.
  • Meeting risk reduction standards to abate any chipping, flaking or peeling paint in the interior or exterior of the property.
  • Obtaining a verification inspection certificate showing that the risk reduction standards were met.

Substantial penalties ($20 per unit per day) can be applied to properties that are not in compliance by Jan. 1, 2015.  For more information see:

  • Lead paint compliance information from MDE
  • A list of certified contractors and inspectors. Also check AOBA’s membership directory for associate members that are certified to perform lead paint consulting and inspections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

During its 2013 session the General Assembly enacted the most sweeping series of campaign finance reforms in a generation.  Although AOBA took no position on HB 1499 , the bill will make significant changes in how business owners may make campaign contributions to candidates for state and county offices starting Jan. 1, 2015.  Many of the changes stem from recommendations of the Commission to Study Campaign Finance Law, including:

  • Increased Contribution Limits - The maximum contributions that a person may make during a four-year election cycle to one candidate is increased from $4,000 to $6,000, and for all candidates from $10,000 to $24,000.  These limits will be subject to CPI-based increases starting in the 2019 election cycle.
  • PACs – Transfer limits for political action committees were not altered, and remain at $6,000 per candidate per election cycle with an unlimited total for all candidates.  PACS organized under Maryland law must prominently note on their checks “MD registered PAC.”
  • Business Entity Contributions - The bill will aggregate campaign contributions from related business entities (including corporations, LLCs, partnerships, limited partnerships, REITs and sole proprietorships) if the entity is a wholly-owned subsidiary or controlled by at least 80% of the same individuals or entities.  This will have the effect of combining the contributions of the related entities as if they were one contributor for purposes of the campaign contribution limits.
  • Persons Doing Business With Government – Reports of campaign contributions by officers, directors or partners of a business entity will be required semiannually when the entity has a contract of over $200,000 to do business with the State of Maryland or a local government in the State.  The report must be filed electronically and reflect contributions in the cumulative amount of $500 or more to any candidate for office with the jurisdiction.
  • Independent Expenditures – The reporting of independent expenditures and electioneering communications made by persons will be subject to enhanced and faster reporting to the State Board of Elections.
  • Earlier Primary Filing Deadline – The deadline for an individual to file a certificate of candidacy for a state or county office will be moved up from mid-April of a gubernatorial election year to the last Tuesday in February.  That deadline will fall on February 25, 2014.

 

 

 

 


The Maryland General Assembly ended its 90 day session with many wins and a few losses for AOBA members.  Here is a quick recap of some of the important issues that AOBA fought for and against, and their outcomes.  A more comprehensive summary will be sent to AOBA members as soon as bills are reprinted.

Dog Liability Bill Dies Amid Fracas

A last day effort to establish breed neutral dog liability standards collapsed on the House floor amid shouting and finger pointing, leaving in place for at least another year the Court of Appeals’ decision targeting pit bull owners and their landlords.  The Senate had earlier unanimously approved compromise language that would have imposed strict liability for owners of dogs that injured a child under the age of 13, with lesser standards of liability for injuries to older individuals.  Landlords and other third parties would have been returned to the common law standard imposing liability if it could be proven that the landlord had knowledge of the dog’s presence on the leased premises, knowledge of its vicious propensities, and the landlord maintained control over the leased premises.

AOBA had worked for the past year with other rental housing providers and dog advocates to convince legislators of the need to establish rational, breed neutral standards for dog liability.  These efforts could not overcome the deep differences between the House and Senate, personality clashes, lack of sympathy for pit bulls, delays that pushed the issue to the final day of the session and a complex compromise that pleased few.

Rental housing providers must evaluate their exposure to lawsuits in light of the General Assembly’s inability to enact legislation overturning the Tracey v. Solesky decision of the Court of Appeals.  Landlords that permit a dog on their premises that could be construed by a judge or jury to be a “pure bred pit bull” will continue to face strict liability for any injuries caused by the dog.

Bills Enacted

  • Recordation and Transfer Tax - AOBA supported measures that will bring equity to the recordation and transfer taxes.   SB 202 and HB 372 will add LLCs to the types of business entities that are exempt from the recordation and transfer taxes when transferring property between a parent and wholly-owned subsidiary.  SB 436 and HB 1209 will raise the amount of an indemnity mortgage deed of trust that is exempt from the recordation tax from $1 million to $3 million and clarify that the tax only applies to additional debt incurred above the existing principal balance.
  • Personal Property Tax – AOBA was a lead supporter for SB 573 and HB 1190 , which will enable counties to reduce business personal property tax rates independent of the real property tax rate.
  • Filing Fee Surcharge - SB 640 and HB 838 will extend for another 5 years the surcharge on certain court fees used to fund the Maryland Legal Services Corporation.  AOBA was successful in getting the surcharge sunset date extended, rather than repealed.
  • Maryland Accessibility Code Enforcement - HB 1279 will create a private right of action for an occupant, dependent of an occupant, or a prospective tenant to enforce the Maryland Accessibility Code when certain buildings have new construction, additions, or alterations.  AOBA was able to narrow the scope of the bill and remove the awarding of punitive damages.
  • Energy Surcharges - Over AOBA’s objections, SB 8 and HB 226 were passed by wide margins, respectively authorizing a customer surcharge for gas infrastructure replacement and subsidizing the possible construction of off-shore wind turbines.  Fortunately, the subsidy for wind turbines will only be collected in the unlikely event that the turbines are built.

Bills That Failed

  • Rent Control – AOBA led the opposition to HB 315 , which would have imposed statewide rent control and a standard of “just cause” for evictions for rental properties.
  • Source of Income - SB 487 and HB 603 would have made it a discriminatory practice for a landlord to refuse to rent to an individual based on the source of their income and were designed to force all landlords to participate in the federal Section 8 voucher program.  After a strong floor fight, the Senate defeated SB 487 on a 23 to 22 vote.  AOBA also successfully opposed        SB 1059, which would have imposed sanctions on landlords that required an application fee from a prospective tenant who intended to use a source of income that was not accepted by the landlord.
  • Balcony Inspections - SB 18 , which would have required balcony inspections of multifamily dwellings every 10 years, was substantially amended to address concerns of multifamily dwelling owners and local governments.  However, the bill died on the Senate floor on a 21 to 25 vote.
  • Smoking Lawsuits – AOBA was successful in getting the Montgomery County Delegation to adopt significant amendments to HB 676 , which would have authorized a tenant to sue another tenant who caused smoke to drift into their apartment unit more than once in a 14 day period.  AOBA’s amendments ensured that the bill imposed no duty or liability on owners or managers of the property.
  • Eviction Process – AOBA was joined by sheriffs and other witnesses in opposition to HB 968 , which would have shifted the responsibility for mailing and posting court summonses in the eviction process from the sheriff to the landlord.
  • Split Property Tax Rates - SB 707 and HB 161 would have granted counties the authority to adopt differential tax rates on classes of real property, an issue long opposed by AOBA.
  • LLC Company Representative – AOBA led the opposition to HB 881 , which would have required every LLC doing business in Maryland to appoint a company representative, and include the individual’s name, address, telephone number and email address in the articles of organization.
  • False Claims – AOBA was the only opponent to HB 509 , which would have imposed fines of $10,000 per occurrence and treble damages for a person determined to have submitted a false claim for payment to a state or county government.
  • Criminal Records Shielding - SB 701 and HB 1006 would have enabled persons convicted of certain misdemeanors to shield those criminal records from public access.
  • Lead Paint – A number of bills were introduced to alter various aspects of Maryland’s lead paint remediation and liability laws – all of which died in the House Environmental Matters Committee.
  • Interest on Security Deposits – The perennial attempt to adopt a market-based interest rate for funds held by as security deposits failed again.  HB 45 passed the House overwhelmingly, but the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee killed SB 337 on a 6 to 5 vote – ending the issue for another year.
  • Municipal Tax Authority – AOBA supported HB 820 and SB 893 , which would have limited the authority of municipalities to place burdensome property taxes on narrowly-drawn classes of real property.

 

 

 

 


 

 

A last day effort to establish breed neutral dog liability standards collapsed on the House floor amid shouting and finger pointing, leaving in place for at least another year the Court of Appeals’ decision targeting pit bull owners and their landlords.  The Senate had earlier unanimously approved compromise language that would have imposed strict liability for owners of dogs that injured a child under the age of 13, with lesser standards of liability for injuries to older individuals.  Landlords and other third parties would have been returned to the common law standard imposing liability if it could be proven that the landlord had knowledge of the dog’s presence on the leased premises, knowledge of its vicious propensities, and the landlord maintained control over the leased premises.

AOBA had worked for the past year with other rental housing providers and dog advocates to convince legislators of the need to establish rational, breed neutral standards for dog liability.  These efforts could not overcome the deep differences between the House and Senate, personality clashes, lack of sympathy for pit bulls, delays that pushed the issue to the final day of the session and a complex compromise that pleased few.

Rental housing providers must evaluate their exposure to lawsuits in light of the General Assembly’s inability to enact legislation overturning the Tracey v. Solesky decision of the Court of Appeals.  Landlords that permit a dog on their premises that could be construed by a judge or jury to be a “pure bred pit bull” will continue to face strict liability for any injuries caused by the dog.

 

 

 

 


The Maryland Senate has unanimously approved the conference committee report on SB 160, establishing standards of liability for personal injury or death caused by a dog.  As amended by the conference committee report, the emergency bill: 1) Establishes strict liability for a dog owner if the individual injured or killed by a dog is under the age of 13; 2)  For the owner of a dog that injures or kills an individual age 13 or over, there will be a rebuttable presumption that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities, which may be rebutted with a preponderance of the evidence; and 3) For landlords and other third parties, restores the pre-Solesky common law standard of liability.  Under common law, a landlord would be held liable for damages caused by a tenant’s dog if it could be proven that the landlord had knowledge of the dog’s presence on the leased premises and knowledge of its vicious propensities, and the landlord maintained control over the leased premises.

The conference committee report now moves to the House.

 

 


The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee approved SB 487 on a 6 to 5 vote, which would make it a discriminatory practice for a landlord to refuse to rent to an individual based on the source of their income.  The bill was supported by Senators Forehand, Frosh, Gladden, Muse, Raskin and Stone.  Opponents were Senators Brochin, Getty, Jacobs, Shank and Zirkin.

The bill is designed to force all landlords to participate in the federal Section 8 voucher program.  AOBA and other multifamily rental housing providers have opposed the bill, citing concerns regarding rent limits, uncertainty of payment, additional inspections, and housing agency paperwork.  Although the bill was amended to terminate in 5 years, experience has shown that sunset provisions rarely are allowed to take effect.  The bill now moves to Senate floor for debate.  Please contact your Senators to oppose SB 487.