It’s said that ignorance of the law does not hold a law-breaker innocent – even though it might be an “honest” mistake, or an “innocent” oversight! One area, where rental management companies in Baltimore Maryland exercise extreme diligence, is when it comes to the Baltimore City Code governing the state of a rental property. Because the laws are constantly changing, to meet everchanging housing needs and demands, City Council responds with new rules, or changes to existing laws. Ignorance of those laws can prove challenging – especially for DIY rental property owners.
Unaware is not Unresponsible
When you work with trusted rental management companies in Maryland, one familiar refrain that you’ll often here is: We know the law! So, why is that critical for rental property investors and landlords? There’s often an unintended possibility, by landlords, of serious violations of Baltimore city rental and housing laws. These infractions, that arise from the property displaying a “serious defect”, typically won’t come to light unless rental property owners actively look for them. However, for absentee landlords, or first-time investment property investors, that can be a challenge.
And what might constitute such an egregious defect, that it could put landlords and rental property owners on the wrong side of the law?
Well, Baltimore City Code, Housing and Urban Renewal, Article 13, § 8-1(d) stipulates the following list that could qualify as a serious defect:
1. Lack of heat, light, electricity, or hot or cold running water, except where the tenant is responsible for payment of utilities and the lack results from tenant’s failure to pay the charges;
2. Lack of adequate sewage disposal facilities;
3. Infestation of rodents in the dwelling unit (except if the property is a one-family dwelling);
4. Existence of paint containing lead pigment on surfaces in the dwelling unit;
5. A structural defect that is a serious and substantial threat to the physical safety of the occupants; or
6. A condition that is a health or fire hazard to the dwelling unit.
Experienced rental management companies in Baltimore Maryland know, that being unaware of these deficiencies does not entitle property managers to claim that as a defense in any legal proceedings. And that means, DIY rental property owner-landlords can’t justify such a claim either!
Constantly Evolving Landscape
The domain of rental property law is constantly morphing. As we’ve seen during the COVID-19 crisis, lawmakers responded to the changing health crisis by amending existing rental housing rules, and enacting new laws. Therefore, this is not an exhaustive list by any mens – there are other items that constitute serious defect. And, unfortunately, this list isn’t “final” – it evolves, and receives periodic updates from lawmakers.
While it might be a challenge for DIY property owners to stay abreast of the changing legal rental property landscape, it’s the legal and professional responsibility of all rental management companies in Maryland to do so. A failure, on their part, to stay on top of the changing laws governing landlord-tenant relationships, is an abject disregard of their duty to a client.