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New Laws Impact AOBA Members in January

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Several new laws enacted by state and local governments that will have significant impacts on AOBA members become effective in January of 2015. Members are urged to review these law summaries to ensure compliance and avoid costly litigation. Contact AOBA Maryland VP Ron Wineholt for more info at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org.

· Pre-1978 Properties Must Meet Lead Paint Standards - Maryland’s Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Law will expand to include residential rental properties built after 1949 but before 1978. Unless a property has been certified to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) as lead-free or limited lead-free by an MDE-accredited inspector, requirements include:

o Registration with MDE of all rental units and payment of an annual fee of $30 per unit;

o Having a rental unit inspected for lead dust contamination by an MDE-accredited inspector before every change of occupancy. If the unit passes the inspection, the inspector will provide the owner two copies of a Lead Paint Risk Reduction Inspection Certificate.

o Before moving into the unit, the tenant must be provided a copy of the certificate, the Notice of Tenants' Rights and the brochure Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home , and the owner must obtain a written receipt from the tenant for these documents. The Notice of Tenants’ Rights must also be provided to the tenant, with a written receipt, every subsequent two years.

Failure to comply with the new law will expose the property owner to substantial penalties and jeopardize the owner’s ability to collect rent or evict a tenant. See the new program requirements.

· Changes to Security Deposit Interest - Changes to state law will alter prospectively the interest rate paid on residential security deposits in Maryland. The interest rate payable for the year will reset annually based on the U.S. Treasury Yield Curve Rate for one year, as of the first business day of each year, or 1.5 percent, whichever is greater.

We expect the required interest rate to drop to the 1.5 percent floor and will advise members as soon as the Jan. 2, 2015 rate is posted. However, the legislation has significant ambiguities regarding accrual of interest and application of the new rates only to leases entered into after January 1, 2015. AOBA will pursue corrective legislation at the 2015 session of the General Assembly to resolve these issues. Until these ambiguities are resolved, members should consider whether to adopt use of the lower interest rates.

· Inspections of Balconies With Wood Railings - State legislation will require local governments to establish programs for the inspection, at least every five years, of balcony railings that are primarily constructed of wood to ensure that they meet the requirements of the local housing code or the minimum livability code. The inspections must begin no later than 10 years after the balcony is constructed, with the initial inspection completed by October 1, 2015. The local government may directly conduct the inspection, authorize a third party to conduct the inspection or require that the inspection be performed by a professional inspector designated by the owner of the multifamily dwelling. The local government may charge a fee for the inspection or, under certain circumstances, allow the inspection to be performed by a qualified person with at least five years of experience in multifamily dwelling operations, upkeep and maintenance.

· Criminal Background Checks – Legislation adopted in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties will limit how and when employers may conduct criminal background checks of prospective employees. Employers will be prohibited from requiring a job applicant to disclose on an employment application the existence or details of the applicant’s arrest record or conviction record. Members are urged to review their employment application forms to ensure that they do not expose you to a potential violation.

At the conclusion of a first interview, an employer may inquire whether the applicant has a criminal history record or conduct a criminal record check. Although there are procedural differences between the Montgomery County and Prince George’s County laws, notice must be provided to the job applicant if an offer of employment is rescinded due to the applicant’s criminal record, so that the applicant has an opportunity to contest the accuracy of the record.