New Md. laws affecting property tax credits, foreclosures, ground rent (and possibly you)

A grab bag of housing-related legislation passed in the Maryland General Assembly's recently completed session. Here are the highlights:

Homestead credit penalties (HB 1081): Authorizes local governments to hit people with bigger penalties if they are found to be receiving a Homestead Property Tax Credit (or credits) they don't qualify for and "willfully misrepresented facts" to get the break. The homestead credit caps big tax increases as a result of property appreciation, but it is only for primary residences.

No homesteads for banks (SB 123): Requires that banks -- or whoever purchases a home at foreclosure auction -- send a copy of the court ratification notice to the state Department of Assessments and Taxation so the new owners don't reap the benefit of homestead tax credits intended for the previous owners. Previously, the assessments agency said it had to wait until the new owner recorded the deed to transfer title, which frequently took months -- even years.

Foreclosed property registry (HB 1373): Requires banks and other owners of foreclosed properties to send ownership and maintenance contact information to a state-run registry so officials and neighbors know who to call if there's a problem

Pre-foreclosure mediation/expedited foreclosure for vacants (HB 1374): Expands the mediation program for Maryland homeowners behind on their mortgages so borrowers and lenders don't have to wait until the eve of foreclosure for a sit-down meeting if they both agree to it. State officials said they hope earlier intervention will lead to better alternatives than foreclosure. The legislation also allows mortgage servicers to foreclose more quickly on (verified) vacant properties, intended as an anti-blight measure.

Ground-rent registry (HB 177): Requires that owners of ground rent register their property in order to collect payments from homeowners. The law is intended as a replacement for a requirement to register by September 2010 or forever lose the ground rent, struck down by the state's highest court as unconstitutional.

Any other newly passed legislation you think affects housing? Chime in with a comment.

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