While I applaud House Bill 313 and the attention The Baltimore Sun Editorial Board brought to the important issue of condominium maintenance, both HB 313 and The Sun arguably missed the most important issue (”Florida collapse raises concerns about condominium oversight in Maryland; here’s what the legislature should do,” July 7).
A discussion regarding condominiums must begin with the initial construction, adherence to building codes and submitted specs, and oversight of such construction by the relevant municipality. When construction does not meet basic building requirements but somehow passes inspection, we must ask questions and hold those who participated accountable.
There is no dispute that construction issues often materialize long after construction has been completed. Oftentimes, the passage of time allows builders to avoid responsibility due to statute of limitations. Additionally, municipalities can use their broad immunity to avoid having to answer as to how the condominium construction passed inspection.
Even when defects are found during the warranty period, builders (if still in business) have required condominium boards to sign a broad waiver of any future rights before repairing defects. Some builders even add on an additional requirement that prohibits the condominium board from disclosing the waiver of these rights to the condominium owners, the same individuals whose rights are being waived.
Del. Courtney Watson was the lead sponsor along with 10 other delegates of House Bill 30-2020, which would have prevented condominium boards from waiving rights of condominium owners without their knowledge. Along with Maryland residents, others weighing in with input or support of the bill included U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, the Maryland Building Industry Association and the Maryland Community Associations Institute. An amended House Bill 30-2020 passed through the House of Delegates by a vote of 137 to 0. On the Senate side, Senate Bill 471 (the mirror of H.B. 30-2020) never made it to the Senate floor for a vote. Of interest is why it failed to come out of the Senate committee and specifically which senators played a role in that decision. The question is raised: How many received campaign donations from builders and developers?
My hope is that the tragedy of the Champlain Towers South condominium building in Surfside, Florida, will inspire our elected officials and municipalities to focus on protecting the condominium owners as to adherence to code and submitted specs during the construction of condominiums and accountability when these are not met. Continued opposition runs the risk of the appearance of outside interest seeming more important than protection of the citizens of this state.
Cindy Ardinger, Ellicott City
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