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Consumer Protection Bills Passed By the General Assembly

Maryland State House.jpgDozens of consumer protection bills were introduced in this year's session of the General Assembly. Many died without a final vote; but, a few made it into law. These are the bills that will become law:

House Bill 88/Senate Bill 199 deals with mortgage refinances. If the refinanced mortgage meets certain conditions, the bill grants the same lien priority to the refinance mortgage upon recordation as the replaced first mortgage or deed of trust and requires the refinance mortgage to contain a specified notice. The bill authorizes a mortgagor or grantor to refinance the full amount of the unpaid indebtedness secured by a first mortgage or deed of trust on residential property for a lower interest rate than provided for in the evidence of indebtedness secured by the first mortgage or deed of trust without the permission of the holder of a junior lien if (1) the principal amount secured by the junior lien does not exceed $150,000 and (2) the principal amount secured by the refinance mortgage does not exceed the unpaid outstanding principal balance of the first mortgage or deed of trust plus $5,000. The bill takes effect Oct. 1.

House Bill 291 is the "Maryland Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Act." It establishes that a mortgage assistance relief service provider providing mortgage assistance relief in connection with a dwelling in the state that does not comply with certain provisions of federal law is in violation of the Act. It also authorizes the Attorney General or the Commissioner of Financial Regulation to seek an injunction to prohibit a violation of the Act and authorizes the Commissioner to enforce the Act by exercising specified powers and requiring a violator to take specified affirmative action. The law takes effect on July 1.

House Bill 71 establishes the requirements that an insurer must meet before refusing to issue or renew a policy of homeowner's insurance solely because the insured property or the applicant's or insured's address is located within a specified geographic area of the state. It requires an insurer to adopt a specified underwriting standard and to file it with the Maryland Insurance Commissioner for approval.

House Bill 126 expands the scope of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) to encompass an act or omission that relates to the purchase, rental, or lease by a fraternal, religious, civic, patriotic, educational or charitable organization of goods or services for the benefit of the members of the organization. The law increases the maximum fine from $1,000 to $3,000 and the maximum imprisonment term from one to three years for criminal penalties that may be imposed. The bill becomes effective Oct. 1.

House Bill 1215 establishes the "Home Appliance Warranty Enforcement Act." Under the bill, a home appliance manufacturer or its agent must repair or correct a non-conformity in a home appliance at no cost to the consumer if it does not conform to the manufacturer's express warranties. Violation of the bill is an unfair or deceptive trade practice under the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA), subject to MCPA's civil and criminal penalty provisions. The bill applies to home appliances sold on or after Oct. 1, 2013.

Bills that would have required additional disclosure requirements for debt collectors and imposed duties on businesses, including the implementation of security procedures and practices, in the interest of protecting an individuals' private information didn't make it through this year's legislative process.

Baltimore, Maryland-based Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz has been fighting for clients who have been the victims of negligence for many years. Call us at 410-234-0100 or email us for a free consultation and let us help you.

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