Maryland is known to be a fairly tenant-friendly state, and the City of Baltimore tends to lead the pack in terms of regulations that are built in favor of renters. This means, as a landlord, you have to be very clear about your requirements as a property manager, or you could find yourself footing a costly bill in the event you misunderstand, unwittingly omit, or outright ignore the obligations set forth by the city, county, and state. Before you hand the keys over to your next tenant, you need to thoroughly understand lead paint laws and rental inspection requirements, which can be incredibly time-consuming in this particular area of the country. Of course, you also need to have a well-written lease, inclusive of all the appropriate addendums. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember this is why successful landlords entrust their investments to professional rental management services in Baltimore.
Lead Paint Laws in Baltimore
Like most cities, particularly those with older homes, Baltimore has lead paint laws. If your property was built before 1978, the state requires you to provide the MDE Lead Paint Pamphlet, the HUD Lead-Based Paint Disclosure, and the EPA Lead-Based Paint Pamphlet to your renters when you give them their lease. In order to be able to legally rent your property in Baltimore, you must meet the standards required by Maryland’s lead paint laws. There are three classifications of lead paint laws in Baltimore: lead-free, limited lead-free, and risk-reduction certifications. If your property qualifies for the former two classifications, you’ll be exempt from the Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Act. In order to obtain these classifications, your property must be inspected by an accredited MDE inspector who has lead-paint tested the interior and exterior of your property to determine the amount of lead present.
Lead-Free Inspection Certificates
A lead-free inspection certificate confirms that all interior and exterior surfaces of your property have been verified to be free of the presence of lead-based paint in accordance with the MDE’s established criteria. To obtain this status, you’ll need to pay a one-time lead-processing fee of $10 per property, per unit.
Limited Lead-Free Inspection Certificates
Limited lead-free certificates indicate the interior surfaces of your property passed the inspector’s lead-free testing, but the exterior painted surfaces contain some level of lead paint.
The exterior paint of your property must be intact to obtain this certificate, which has a two-year expiration. After two years, you must recertify that your property’s exterior is free of chipping or flaking. Should your two-year limited lead-free certificate expire, you’ll need to obtain a new inspection certificate and pay the MDE an additional $10 per property per unit processing fee.
- Full-Reduction Inspection. This type of inspection is typically performed in vacant units. Inspectors will verify that any chipping, peeling, or flaking of paint has been removed from the walls and the air is free of lead-contaminated dust. The cleaner and more well maintained your unit, the more likely you are to pass the dust test.
The costs of not adhering to Maryland’s lead paint laws can be substantial. Tynae and Tajah Jefferson, who lived in a home riddled with lead-based paint when they were children were awarded a $5 million dollar settlement after their then-landlord admitted he knew of lead problems but did not disclose them at the time he rented his property to their family. In 2014, a 17-year-old boy was awarded a $2 million judgment as a result of suffering permanent brain damage at the hands of his negligent property owner.
If you need assistance with lead inspections for your rental property, consult the State of Maryland’s Department of the Environment for a full list of state-accredited lead paint inspection contractors, or contact a professional Baltimore rental property management company. Only those persons accredited by the state are qualified to inspect your property for the contents of lead.
As of August 1, 2018, new rental laws went into effect in the City of Baltimore; landlords and property managers have until January 1, 2019 to become compliant with the new terms. In order to obtain your license by the first of January in the coming year, you’ll need to have your inspections completed between 8/1/2018 and 12/31/2018. Failure to do so can result in hefty fines and penalties.
The new law requires landlords to obtain a certified inspection from a Baltimore City-licensed inspector in order to obtain the required rental license each property owner must possess in order to rent his or her space to a tenant. Inspectors will undertake a four-page inspection checklist to ensure your property is fit to be rented to tenants.
Baltimore County also requires certain licensing, which is necessary if your property contains one to six rental units. Should you rent your property without proper licensing, you’ll be subject to the “denial, suspension, revocation or non-renewal of the license or civil penalties of $25 per day for each day a violation occurs and $200 per day for each day a correction notice is not complied with, and there will be a $1,000 fine for not complying with the Rental Registration Law,” according to the Baltimore County Government’s website.
What Inspectors are Looking For
The City’s goal is the safety of its residents. This is why the governing bodies put so much emphasis on regulations and licensed inspectors. When your rental property is visited by an inspector, he or she will be looking for:
- Properly placed smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms
- Electrical systems that have no apparent issues of hazard
- Functional plumbing with no apparent defects
- Operational windows
- Proper ventilation for all combustible appliances (furnace, heater, dryer, hot water heater)
- Safe secondary means of escape, particularly in sleeping areas
Before you hire an inspector, be sure he or she is licensed by the State of Maryland. This will likely save you a lot of frustration in the long run. Registration fees range from $40 to $50, depending on whether you live in the property you own, as well as how many tenants you have living in your property. Should you choose to rent your property without the proper licensing, you’ll be subject to costly penalties that can quickly translate into exorbitant costs.
If you’re concerned about the day-to-day dealings regarding Maryland’s landlord-tenant laws, consider hiring a rental property management company based in Baltimore to take care of these tasks for you.
Baltimore Landlord Documentation
Being a landlord is just as much about having the proper documentation as it is owning the property. Before you rent out your place, you’ll need to have a number of documents properly prepared and ready to hand to your future tenant. The following list is a brief summary of some of the most important documents you’ll need:
First and foremost, you need to have a properly composed lease that puts all landlord-tenant obligations and expectations on the table in black and white. It’s highly inadvisable to go with an online lease template because rental laws vary greatly between states, counties, and cities. Make sure you’ve covered your assets by employing a legal professional who understands rental laws, specifically as they relate to Baltimore.
Related to the point above, Baltimore requires certain addendums you’ll need to present to your future renter, such as the following:
- Mold Addendum
- Asbestos Addendum
- Lead Addendum
- Pest Control & Bedbug Addendum
- Baltimore Flood Addendum
- Radon Disclosure
- EPA Radon Guide for Tenants
- Military Addendum
The Leasing Process
Photos are your best friend. Time-stamped images of the before and after conditions of your property will help you substantiate any claims that may need to be made in court. Walk through the property with your tenant and take photos throughout the process. Recreate this journey when your tenant moves out, so you have proper before and after images. Provide your renters with move-in and move-out checklists, so your expectations are kept on a level playing field. This documentation is imperative because it will protect you if a tenant later accuses you of renting an unfit space. It can also help you achieve recourse if your property is left in a mess.
Why A Baltimore Property Management Firm is Right for You
Dealing with lead paint laws, rental inspection requirements, time-consuming eviction processes, and proper documentation is a full-time job. There’s a lot more that goes into property management than most first-time investors realize, and they can quickly find themselves underwater when things start going south. This is exactly why professional property management companies exist. Using their industry expertise and full-time staff of dedicated property pros, property management companies eliminate the stresses of being a landlord from their clients. Once you see how much work goes into managing a rental property in Baltimore, an eight to 10 percent fee pays for itself by giving you peace of mind.
If you don’t know every detail about every necessary addendum, or if you’re not prepared to spend countless hours tied up in the court system, we have a solution! Bring your property management needs to Bay Management Group and let us deal with the rest.
Bay Management Group is Baltimore’s premier property management company, helping property owners and landlords understand the laws while fostering proper landlord-tenant relationships. If you’re ready to embark on a better way of managing your property, you’re ready to reach out to Bay Management Group.