Housing legislation passes the General Assembly

April 18, 2013|By Steve Kilar | The Baltimore Sun

In addition to an extension of the Homestead Tax Credit application deadline, several other pieces of legislation relevant to homeowners passed both chambers of the General Assembly during the most recent session, which ended earlier this month.

Gov. Martin O'Malley is expected to sign them -- provided they pass a constitutional review, according to spokeswoman Raquel Guillory.

Among the 2013 session housing legislation that is likely to become law:

House Bill 235, introduced by Harford County Republican Del. Susan K. McComas, would require the Department of Assessments and Taxation to add five fields of information to the publicly available online database of property tax assessment information.

If O'Malley signs the legislation, the tax department must add to the existing Web database of assessment information: “(1) the square footage of the enclosed improvements above ground; (2) the square footage of the completed improvements below ground; (3) the number of bathrooms; (4) the number of garages; and (5) the date of the initial assessment of the most recently completed improvements assessed after July 1, 2000.”

These fields will allow homeowners to compare their home's assessment to other properties more easily. Under the current law, information about comparable properties is only available to a homeowner after a property tax assessment appeal is filed, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

Senate Bill 642/House Bill 1308 would prohibit nonjudicial evictions. Last year, the state's highest court ruled that a purchaser of a foreclosed property may “exercise the common law remedy of peaceable self-help to repossess property from a defaulted mortgagor or other illegal occupant,” the DLS said in its review of the 2013 General Assembly session.

These bills prevent “self-help evictions," including those approved of last year by the Maryland Court of Appeals — such as changing the locks or cutting services to a residence. Instead, in most circumstances, a judge's eviction order, executed by a sheriff, would be required to evict a resident. The primary sponsors of this legislation are Prince George's County Democrats Del. Anne Healey and Sen. C. Anthony Muse.

Senate Bill 199/House Bill 88, modeled after a law Virginia adopted more than a decade ago, would allow homeowners to proceed with refinancing a first mortgage without permission from a second lender.

For the law to apply, the principal of the second mortgage would have to be $150,000 or less. The principal of the refinanced mortgage must also be less than the outstanding principal of the first mortgage plus $5,000, according to the Department of Legislative Service's analysis of the bill.

The process of seeking refinance approval from a junior mortgagee can be costly, confusing and time-consuming — ultimately preventing homeowners who may be struggling to pay their mortgage from refinancing at today's low rates.

This legislation should help more people stay in their homes, said Del. Sam Arora. He and fellow Montgomery County Democrat Sen. Brian E. Frosh were the bills' primary sponsors.

Senate Bill 383/House Bill 291 is intended to reduce fraud in the mortgage assistance industry. Montgomery County Democrats Del. Brian J. Feldman and Sen. Jamie Raskin, were the legislation's primary sponsors.

If enacted, the law would require any provider of mortgage assistance relief to comply with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's regulations. Violations of the regulations would be misdemeanors punishable by up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.Have a real estate news tip or experience to share? Email me at steve.kilar@baltsun.com.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.