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A round-up of housing-related legislation in Annapolis so far

General Assembly season is in full swing, with committee hearings getting underway and lobbyists pouring into Annapolis.

As of Wednesday morning, there had been more than 250 bills introduced, including more than a dozen that relate to Marylanders’ homes. The bills touch on nearly every aspect of homeownership — from refinancing a mortgage to recouping losses caused by a contractor — and also address facets of renting.

Here’s a round-up of some of the housing-related legislation being tackled during the 2013 session:

Senate Bill 18 — This bill, introduced by Sen. Ronald N. Young, a Frederick County Democrat, would require inspections of balconies on apartment buildings, dorms and hotels every 10 years to ensure that each balcony meets code requirements. It was introduced during the 2012 regular session but failed in the Senate and was never taken up by the House.

Senate Bill 22 — Sen. David R. Brinkley, a Republican representing portions of Frederick and Carroll counties, introduced this legislation to exempt the purchase of devices for disabled people, including home wheelchair lifts, from sales and use taxes. This legislation passed the Senate last year with no opposition. According to an assessment of the bill by the Department of Legislative Services, a wheelchair lift costs approximately $6,000 and this bill would have saved the purchasers about $360 in taxes.

Senate Bill 28 — Owners of blighted property, if notified of code violations by officials, would be required to submit a remediation plan to authorities and complete the remediation within four months of the plan’s approval. Young also introduced this bill.

Senate Bill 62 — Requested by the Department of Housing and Community Development, this bill would eliminate the need for local governments to pass a resolution in order to apply for funds from the state’s Community Legacy program, which is focused on encouraging homeownership, commercial revitalization and business retention and attraction.

Senate Bill 66 — This bill, at the request of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, would increase the Maryland Home Improvement Commission, which licenses home improvement contractors, from seven to nine members. If the bill were passed, the commission would also have a new formula for calculating a quorum and would only be required to meet every other month (it is now required to meet monthly).

Senate Bill 78 — This bill, also submitted by DLLR, increases the amount of compensation for losses caused by a licensed contractor that the state can provide without a hearing. The maximum that can now be doled out from the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund without a hearing is $5,000. Senate Bill 78 would increase it to $10,000.

Senate Bill 136 — Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Democrat from Montgomery County, introduced this bill, which would allow co-ops, condo associations and homeowners associations to apply for funds from the state’s Solar Energy Grant Program. The grants are now only available to individuals, governments and businesses.

Senate Bill 119/House Bill 21 — This legislation, which successfully advanced through the Senate last year, would increase the amount of property tax exemption for homes owned by a blind person or their surviving spouse from $15,000 to $30,000. Sen. Edward R. Reilly and Del. Cathy Vitale, both Anne Arundel County Republicans, sponsored this bill.

House Bill 23 — This bill is intended to provide more protection to purchasers of condos. Condo resellers would be required to provide information about the condo association, including the bylaws and any other rules, and condo fees in the sale contract. Without the additional information, the contract would be void. Anne Arundel County Democrat Del. Pamela Beidle is the sponsor.

House Bill 40 — If passed, most sellers of existing homes would be required to produce to prospective purchasers copies of the utility bills for the 12-month period before the property was put up for sale. Versions of this utility consumption transparency bill passed both chambers during the 2012 regular session. It is sponsored by Del. Alfred C. Carr Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat.

House Bill 45 — Amends the interest rate landlords are required to pay on tenants’ security deposits. Currently, landlords are supposed to pay 3 percent per year. This bill would, in many cases, tie the interest rate paid to a variable U.S. Treasury rate. The bill, sponsored by Republican Del. Herbert H. McMillan of Anne Arundel County, would also require the state to publish the variable rate on a website and provide an online calculator so that landlords can easily figure interest owed to tenants. Last year, this legislation got through the house but stalled in the senate.

House Bill 71 — Insurers would be forbidden to refuse to issue or renew a homeowner’s insurance policy solely because of the home’s location unless the insurer provided a written underwriting standard for that geographic area to the Maryland Insurance Commissioner and the commissioner approved the standard. Last year, this legislation passed the House but got stuck in the Senate Finance Committee. Republican Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell of Southern Maryland sponsored this bill.

House Bill 88 — A homeowner seeking to refinance a mortgage would not be required to get permission to do so from a junior lienholder, as long as the junior lien is for $150,000 or less. Montgomery County Democrats, Dels. Sam Arora and Brian J. Feldman, sponsored this bill.

House Bill 114 — A group of delegates, predominantly from Baltimore, have submitted this bill, which would create a state task force to “study and report on the current process in Maryland for rebuilding a home affected by fire,” including insurance payment procedures. The task force would also “consider whether existing State laws and policies provide adequate assistance to Maryland residents who experience damage to their homes due to a residential fire,” study other jurisdictions’ “recovery models” and provide recommendations for ways to improve fire recovery in Maryland.

New bills and cross-filings are introduced every day, especially in these early days of the session. As I mentioned, this list is current as of Wednesday.

To look at legislation that has been introduced since I created this list, go to the General Assembly wesbite homepage. Under the header "Active Topics" (the purple header in the middle of the page) and the sub-header "All Legislation," click on the links titled "Status of all Senate/House Legislation introduced in Current Session." They are updated every morning.

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