The 2016 Maryland Legislative Session has begun in Annapolis. Here are some key issues which could impact home owners and potential home buyers:
Agency law is one of the most important laws dictating how real estate agents interact with the public. The law details agent’s duties, including the disclosure of whom the agent is representing in the transaction. Given the importance of the law to both agents and consumers, changes are being proposed that simplifies the disclosure law by focusing disclosure on unrepresented consumers. The current law requires real estate licensees to provide agency disclosure to consumers who are already represented by other licensees and have already had agency information provided to them. The proposed changes would eliminate some of this redundant disclosure except when a consumer is not represented by an agent in the transaction.
In addition, the proposed changes would simplify agency disclosure at open houses by requiring a seller’s agent to post information about the agent’s representation rather than giving out a disclosure form to almost every buyer that visits the property. Many consumers viewing the property are reluctant to sign a disclosure form from the seller’s agent believing it may obligate them to work with the agent.
The final major change is the elimination of the “statutory presumption” of buyer agency. When the statutory presumption was created in the nineties, almost all licensees represented the seller, even those who worked with buyers. Today, industry practice has completely flipped. Unless a consumer is listing a property, the consumer almost always will have a licensee who represents them as a buyer. Though it is still legally possible for a buyer to be represented by a seller’s agent who is not the listing agent, that practice has all but disappeared.
Water and Sewer Disclosure
A troubling and frequently occurring problem is that of home buyers who were never told about their obligation to pay private water and sewer fees. Buyers are understandably upset about an undisclosed and unanticipated fee. A small number of Maryland counties requires these fees to be disclosed up front, and MAR would like these fees to be disclosed state-wide in a manner similar to the law that currently exists in Anne Arundel County. That law requires sellers paying these private fees to disclose them to the buyer or risk being liable for paying the fees in the future.