Let's Discuss Some Leasing Details to Inform Potential Lessees
Our Coldwell Banker Mid-Atlantic Certified Leasing Agent Course teaches us "Leasing is not the devil's work but the devil is in the details." I have taken this course and try to attend the updated course annually as with each legislative session, laws and regulations tend to change. So the below is kind of long but I want to be your information resource and leases have a lot of intricacies about which an agent and consumer and the landlord need to be aware.
So, here we go with a few key points in a nutshell that many folks may not know, or understand entirely. Resources, beginning with your REALTOR, are available for further reading.
- Statewide Requirement regarding age of a property and the potential for lead paint; this is taken very seriously and a landlord can be finds by the Maryland Department of the Environment for non-compliance. Maryland requires all properties to be tenant-occupied that were built prior to 1978 to have a lead paint inspection and ensure the property does not pose a danger to the tenant(s). There are two types - lead safe and lead free and the information can be found on the MDE website. This requirement became effective on 1 January 2015. These properties must be registered annually (for lead safe) on the MDE website and a copy of the inspection certificate and lead informational documents must be provided to the tenant(s), the latter every two years. The inspection must be complete prior to a tenant occupying the property and a new inspection must be completed (if lead safe) upon the changing of tenants. Whew!
- The tenant, or lessee, is the party that is financially responsible for the lease - names party on the lease. All lessees are occupants but not all occupants are lessees.
- Maryland law and pets is fairly broad and varies among jurisdictions and even HOA covenants. So, I will stick to briefly mentioning Service vs Companion pets. Folks with Service pets do not have to provide documentation. Companion pets are prescribed so a landlord may ask for a prescription from the issuing physician. In either case the owner CANNOT ask for an additional deposit.
- About Security deposits - Maryland is very specific. A security deposit in Maryland can be no more than 2 months rent for any purpose to include pet deposits, furniture, other...for any purpose, period. So, be prepared to provide the first month's rent, and up to two more month's rent for security deposits so you do not get caught short unexpectedly. This would = 3 months' rent and no more. When a tenant vacates a property, provided the occupancy warrants return of the security deposit, it must be returned with Interest. Yes, interest that is calculated at a particular treasury rate...thankfully there are calculators to help landlords (and tenants) figure this one out, because the amount changed on 1 January 2015.
- Late rent payments - Maryland law regulates how much a landlord can charge a tenant for late rent to no more than 5% of the total rent as a penalty for a late rent payment.
- Unrelated occupancy rules, governing groups of tenants, vary among counties. Check with your agent who should be aware.
- A brief note on vouchers and Section 8 housing - an agent needs to ask a potential applicant the amount of their voucher ONLY to help determine if the applicant meets the financial ability guidelines. If you want to find out about Section 8 properties, please go to the check availability on a Section 8 housing website.
- By protocol leases should begin on the 1st of the month; however, if this is not possible, a pro-rata period will be entered. The rent for pro-rata is divided by 30 days, no matter how many days the month may have. Yes, we use another formula to help get this correct.
Again, let me be your knowledge resource! Thank you.