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Maryland Governor Signs Bill Requiring Liens To Be Based Only Deliquent Assessments And Not Other Charges Such As Fines

Governor Martin O’Malley has signed into law legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly that amends the Maryland Contract Lien Act as it relates to the foreclosure of liens by condominiums and homeowners associations.  The new law  modifies Section 14-204 of the Real Property Article of the Maryland Annotated Code to prohibit condominiums and homeowners associations from foreclosing on liens for anything other than delinquent periodic or special assessments; meaning that unpaid fines may not be the basis for a lien foreclosure.  Additionally, the new law requires that related costs and fees be limited to “reasonable costs and attorney’s fees directly related to the filing of the lien and not exceeding the amount of the delinquent assessments.”

Both the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates passed similar bills, but the House version had included cooperative housing corporations within the scope of the legislation.  The bills were reconciled in committee, with cooperatives being eliminated in accordance with the Senate version.  Late amendments added “reasonable costs,” and provided that costs and fees not exceed the amount of the principal amount of the unpaid assessment.  The legislation expressly provides that these provisions do not preclude the use of other means to enforce a lien other than foreclosure.  Accordingly, suits for money judgments can still be pursued.  The Governor signed the bill on May 16, 2013, and it will become effective on October 1, 2013.  The law expressly provides that it is “to apply only prospectively and may not be applied or interpreted to have any effect on or application to any lien filed before the effective date.”