Problems with condominiums in Maryland, including a lack of arbitration procedures, inefficient management and poor enforcement of rules, were cited by condominium unit owners who testified recently at the first two in a series of public hearings being conducted by the Maryland Commission on Condominiums.
Among those who testified was J.C. Galloway Jr. of Columbia, who urged the passage of uniform condomium law.He also advocated the establishment of a state office for condominiums that would arbitrate disputes between developers and unit owners over warranty problems, register managers and provide guides for common insurance.
The commission has received complaints from condominium unit owners around the state about incorrectly installed pipes that a developer refused to replace, unresponsive management, defects in heating and air conditioning systems, loose plaster in hallways, lack of sound system in a party room and a heater in a pool, among others, a spokesman said.
Stanley R. Parent, a member of the board of directors of the Calypso Condominium in the District, wrote the board that the board had trouble getting Annapolis Federal Savings and Loan Association to release one unit's annual assessment payment of $800 because the condominium's escrow account was then deficient.
There is currently no law covering fluctuations in such accounts, Parent said. In practice, a lender will advance payment and then add the amount to the principal balance of the loan, he said, but Annapolis declined to do so.
Residents of the Lakeside Terrance Condominium in Bethesda wrote the commission that the community was unable to enforce rules regarding control of dogs, noise, trash disposal and unauthorized parking. "We feel there is need for legislation to permit a council of co-owners to imposed and collect pernalties for severe and repeated violations," they said.
They said that they would also like the financial burden of conversion to be on the developer, not the purchaser, "who generally knows nothing of engineering and is therefore less able than an engineer to determine the real condition of a building and its components."
At Lakeside Terrace Condominium, the co-owners said, residents have paid and "are still paying thousands of dollars to remedy of conversion. We feel there is a desperate need for legislation to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future."
Among the legislative reforms urged in letters to the commission were licensing and certification of management agencies, a more equitbale policy of taxation at state level, a more realistic method of amending by-laws, a certificate of resale for mandatory use throughout Maryland and similar to the one now in use in Virginia, and mandatory property inspection before the developer releases the condo minium to the co-owners.
The commission is also contemplating whether to set up a state hearing office that would rule on disputes between developers, condominium associations and owners, as well as a clearing house, for general information and a list of all condominiums and their officers.
The third in the series of the state-wide hearings is being held at 12:30 p.m. today in the Ocean City Convention Center.
The commission is trying to bring together developers, realtors, managers and owners to discuss what amendments should be made in the state Condominium Act of 1974 and county acts. Commision chairman Richard L. Arkin said the group is "trying to finetune existing laws for second generation owners so as to make condominiums ownership viable over the long-term."
Created last year by the Maryland legislature, the commission has held hearings so far in Columbia and Towson. Composed of developers, financiers, consumers, elected officials and one lawyer, is also studying condominium acts of other states, especially a uniform condominium law.
Between 25 and 50 people turned out for the first two meetings, Arkin said. Additional hearings will be held at 7:30 p.m. June 27 in the Montgomery County Office Building in Rockville; at 7:30 p.m. July 12 at the Greenbelt Public Library and at 7:30 p.m. July 19 in the Legislative Services Building in Anna polis Arkin said additional hearings would be held if warranted.