"Marylanders can choose to bundle and receive whatever discounts, but it can't be required," she said.

Insurance disclosures: Homeowners' policies sometimes contain an "anti-concurrent causation clause." This means that if you sustain a loss from a mix of covered and excluded events, you won't receive anything for your losses. For instance, your house might be covered for wind damage but not flooding, so if both occur, you're out of luck.

"These are very common in homeowners' policies," Hornig said. "We do get complaints about that. It's a real surprise for people."

A move to ban such clauses failed. But lawmakers agreed to require insurers starting next year to send a separate notice to consumers whose policies contain such clauses.

Lawmakers also ordered a study that looks at, among other things, complaints about the clauses and the number of states that ban them and why.

Tenants and utilities: If a landlord is responsible for utilities and fails to pay the bill, tenants can find their utilities shut off without notice.

"We saw it the most in situations where landlords are in foreclosure or just walking away from the property," said Matt Hill, a staff attorney with Public Justice Center in Baltimore.

Tenants, suddenly finding themselves without power, would then try to open an account with the utility, which sometimes tried to make the tenant pay the landlord's past-due balance, he said.

Legislation that would take effect in January would require utilities to notify tenants when service is going to be cut off and to allow tenants to open their own utility account without being responsible for the landlord's bill. Tenants also could deduct their utility payments from their rent.

The bill also has an added protection for all utility customers, Hill said. Utilities would mail shut-off notices in an envelope that states on the outside that a termination of service is pending, making sure that tenants and homeowners are aware, he said.

Savings bond purchases: Taxpayers in recent years have been able to request that all or some of their federal tax refund be used to purchase U.S. Savings Bonds. New legislation would allow Marylanders filing electronically to do the same with their state tax refund.

Maryland filers would be able to buy inflation-protected Series I bonds in increments of $50, and a paper bond would be mailed to them, McKinney said.

"You don't have to have a bank account, even," she said. "It's accessible to everyone."

Bond purchases would be available through the state starting with tax year 2015, the returns for which are filed the following year.

eileen.ambrose@baltsun.com

twitter.com/eileenambrose

  • Text BUSINESS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun Business text alerts