Written By: Patricia McHugh Lambert
So many people have called me an legal geek that I have started to wear this moniker with pride. Tell me about a new federal law and I will start to play twenty questions so that I can gather knowledge. Tell me about a new issue being considered by the Maryland appellate courts and I will begin researching the issue on the internet. Tell me about new laws that the Maryland General Assembly has passed and I begin thinking about how my clients, friends and contacts can use that information in their businesses.
Here are a few of this year crop of new Maryland laws that present opportunities for insurance professionals:
1. To those who deal with rental properties. Changes to the Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Law administered by Maryland Department of the Environment will expand its application to residential rental property built between 1950 and 1978 (beginning January 1, 2015) and provide that evidence that an owner of an affected property was or was not in compliance with the lead law is admissible to prove that the owner exercised or failed to exercise reasonable care. Landlords with such property will need to plan with professionals to make sure that they are protected, to the extent possible, by insurance and are in compliance with the law.
2. To those who deal with same-sex couples. Maryland law is changing its approach to same-sex couples. Regardless of whether this falls referendum overrules the law which would allow marriages between same-sex couples to be performed in this State, the Court of Appeals has recognized that marriages of same-sex couples performed in other states are legal and deserve full recognition. This recognition allows such couple to own houses as tenants by the entireties, to inherit property in the same manner as other married couples, and to be an insured family member under insurance policies. For financial planners and insurance producers, these changes can be a business opportunity to serve their clients and to provide needed advice.
3. To those who deal with condominiums. It seems like every year the General Assembly passes a law dealing with condominiums. This year’s new law broadens the right of the council of unit owners (or its authorized designee) to enter a unit to make repairs, to investigate matters or to prevent damage. The new law requires that the council of unit owners make a reasonable effort to notify the owner of a unit to be entered in order to investigate damage unless the situation involves manifest danger to public safety or property. Undoubtedly, some unit owner will sometime in the future sue a council of unit owners over alleged improper entry. Those that sell insurance to such councils have an opportunity to review policies to determine whether current policies protect against such lawsuits.
4. To those dealing with powers of attorneys. The Maryland General and Limited Power of Attorney Act was changed, particularly as it relates to the designation of coagents, specified authority granted to an agent, and nomination of a guardian of the principal’s property. The Acts also specifies that coagents must act unanimously unless the power of attorney provides otherwise and clarifies that a power of attorney substantially in one of the statutory forms in effect when the document is executed continues to be effective, notwithstanding the enactment of subsequent legislation altering the statutory form. Those dealing with powers of attorneys need to make sure that forms are compliant particularly with the new alert provisions relating to gifts, tax consequences, and retirement plan designation changes.
5. To those who know people owning mopeds and motor scooters. The Maryland General Assembly enacted a bill that requires the operator of a moped or a motor scooter to carry a vehicle liability insurance policy and to possess proof of this insurance when operating a moped or motor scooter. Insurance professionals and financial planners need to make sure that clients know of this issue and are protected from liability.
These are just a few of the new laws which were passed. If you feel that there are other geeky laws you feel are making an impact on your business, I would love to hear about them. Of course, I cannot guarantee that I will not ask you twenty questions. I am just that much of a legal geek.