J. Paul Reiger, Jr. of First American Title Insurance Company and John P. Machen of the Baltimore City Law Department contributed the following summary of SB849/HB1090 passed during the 2013 session of the Maryland General Assembly:
This bill authorizes the tenant of an “affected dwelling unit” to have utility service restored, or to prevent termination of utility service, when the landlord responsible for utility payments defaults. A tenant facing threatened or actual termination of utility service may apply for a new utility service account in the tenant’s name and may not incur liability for charges due on the landlord’s account. However, a utility service provider may require a tenant to pay a deposit and past due balances from previous accounts in the tenant’s name. A tenant may deduct the amount of payments made to a utility service provider from the rent due to the landlord under specified conditions. A tenant’s right to deduct these payments cannot be waived in any lease.
A written complaint filed by a landlord with the District Court for the repossession of any premises for failure of a tenant to pay rent must subtract the amount of any utility bills, fees, or security deposits paid by a tenant under the bill. If the District Court enters a judgment in favor of the landlord for possession of a dwelling unit, any utility bills, fees, or security deposits paid by a tenant under the bill are credited to the amount of rent and late fees owed to the landlord by the tenant.
The bill also establishes specified notification requirements for termination of utility service if the service address is different from, or the same as, the billing address of the affected dwelling unit.
This bill becomes ffective January 1, 2014. Real Property Article 8-212.3, 8-401(b) and (c); Public Utilities Article 7-309