Alert: New Landlord Tenant Laws In Montgomery County, Maryland
If you’re a landlord or property manager in Montgomery County, you need to know about new changes to the law effective March 13, 2017.
Including a Lease Summary with the Lease
When providing a lease to a tenant, you must include a Lease Summary. The Lease Summary is a form document created by the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) and requires you to include certain key terms of the lease, such as the term of the lease, the amount of rent, the date on which rent is due and the tenant’s responsibility for utilities, if any. It also explains tenant rights and the services available to tenants from DHCA. You can find the lease summary here, however, you may create your own form summary so long as it contains the requisite information. You will also want to include a new Lease Summary for every lease renewal after the initial term.
DHCA Handbook Copy and Posting Information
The DHCA handbook is a guide for both landlords and tenants concerning their respective rights and responsibilities. To ensure that tenants have access to this handbook, you must now provide a copy of the DHCA Handbook (found here) with each lease unless the tenant signs a statement declining your copy and accepting referral to a copy, which can be found on Montgomery County’s website here.
You must also conspicuously display a sign in the lobby, vestibule, rental office or other prominent public place on the property that includes information regarding filing a complaint with DHCA and prohibited retaliatory practices. Your sign must also be displayed in the following languages: English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese.
Disclosing Utility Billing Information
If you operate a multi-family building constructed prior to July 1, 1978, and the units in the building are not individually metered for gas and/or electric billing, you must provide each tenant with all information required under the Public Utilities Article of the Maryland Code and applicable COMAR provisions governing electric and gas sub-meters and energy allocation systems.
Two-Year Lease Offering at Initial Term and Renewal
Previously, you were only required to offer a two-year lease to the tenant during the initial term. Now, you are required to offer your tenant a two year lease for the initial term and at renewal. In order to offer a term less than two years you must have reasonable cause and include a statement of reasonable cause with the lease. Additionally, you must advise the tenant of his/her rights to challenge your cause by submitting a complaint to DHCA.
New Ways for a Tenant to Terminate the Lease Early
Tenants are now afforded a greater ability to early terminate their leases when there are circumstances beyond their control requiring them to vacate. Additional reasons for which a tenant may early terminate their lease include: (1) the tenant and/or tenant’s child is a domestic violence victim; (2) tenant or tenant’s spouse is at least 62 years old, can no longer live independently and must move to a nursing home/senior citizen housing; (3) the tenant becomes incarcerated or declared mentally incompetent; and (4) the housing provider harasses the tenant or violates the tenant’s privacy.
Extended Notice for Rent Increases
In Montgomery County, you used to only have to provide your tenant with 60 days written notice if you intended to increase his/her rent. Now, you must provide 90 days’ notice.
Notice for Lease Terminations
Previously, landlords could provide a tenant with 60 days’ to terminate the lease any time after the lease expires and the tenant becomes month-to-month. Now, if a landlord does not intend to offer a tenant a renewed lease term, the landlord must provide 60 days’ notice of their intent to terminate the tenant’s tenancy at lease expiration. If the tenant is in breach of their lease, however, this 60 days’ notice is not required as you may be able to terminate his/her tenancy with a 30 days’ notice instead.
Free Meeting Space for Tenant Organizations
You must now allow tenant organizations to meet for free, at least once each month, in any available meeting rooms at the property. If, however, the tenant organization meets more than once per month, you can charge the tenant organization a reasonable fee associated with the use of the meeting room after the first meeting of each month.
Housing Code Enforcement and Inspections
All multifamily properties in Montgomery County will be inspected at least once every three years by DHCA. Once inspected, and depending on the result of the inspection, DHCA may decide to inspect the property more frequently. Inspection results that may trigger more frequent inspections include: (1) rodent or insect infestation affecting at least 20% of the units at the property; (2) extensive and visible mold growth in exposed areas; (3) defective windows that prevent safe entry and exit; (4) pervasive and recurring water leaks in more than one unit at the property; (5) lack of one or more working utilities such as gas, electricity, water or sewage disposal (not caused by tenant’s failure to pay the utility); and (6) if the DHCA identifies the property as a trouble property due to severe and frequent violations.
If DHCA determines that annual inspections are necessary, you will be required to submit to DHCA all maintenance complaints you receive from tenants at the property.
Whether the inspections occur every three years or annually, any time an inspection is scheduled for the property, the landlord must provide your tenants with 72 hours’ advance notice.
Additional Remedies When Defective Tenancy Exists
The Montgomery County Commission on Landlord Tenant Affairs (the “Commission”) is the department in Montgomery County that investigates allegations of defective tenancies. In addition to the other remedies it can issue, the Commission can now issue an order permitting a tenant to correct the defective condition in the unit and abate the tenant’s rent, for the reasonable costs incurred by the tenant to correct the defective condition.
Offit Kurman’s Landlord Representation Group can assist you to ensure your compliance with these new changes, and many other lease and landlord-tenant related issues in Maryland, DC and Virginia.
If you have any questions about these new landlord tenant laws, please contact us.
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