What records am I entitled to when buying a condo in Maryland?

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In Maryland, you are entitled to see the public offering statement if new construction or the resale certificate package if the property is being sold by an individual owner.

Both the public offering statement and the resale certificate package contain material disclosures that can help you make an informed decision about your purchase. The disclosures in both are similar and include the declaration describing your condominium development and the individual units, bylaws, rules, regulations, operating budget, management agreements, and other vital information. Read each document carefully. They contain provisions that will affect the habitability of your condominium, its ultimate economic value, and your arrangements for daily living.

The public offering statement is used for new condominium sales to the public, while resale certificate packages are used for condominium units that are being sold by the current owner of the unit. Therefore, disclosures in a resale package are usually based on the past experience and operations of the condominium, while the public offering statement will include disclosures based on projections, since past experience either does not exist or may change as new units are added. 

In the public offering statement and resale package, you will find a description of the condominium property explaining the common elements and the individual units. All unit owners are entitled to use the general common elements, but there may also be limited common elements. These may include areas such as patios, balconies, and storage rooms that are reserved for the exclusive use of specific unit owners, although all share ownership.

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Some units include ownership of such features as a yard area, roof, interior areas, or exterior siding. Find out exactly what you will be buying when you purchase your unit, and what repairs and maintenance you will be responsible for. The public offering statement and resale package should contain any agreement that the condominium has with a management firm and should provide specific details about the responsibility for the upkeep of the common elements.

Shared ownership gives you an undivided percentage interest in the common elements. The percentage of ownership will be set out in the declaration and may be assigned equally to all units or it might vary according to the size or monetary value of each unit. The information concerning the shares of ownership should also be disclosed in documents included in the public offering statement and resale package.

Plans for future development will also be included in the public offering statement and resale package. Keep in mind that if the developer plans to add more land or additional units to the condominium, your percentage of ownership interest may change. You should also be aware that if there will be a large number of units per acre, this high density could affect your living conditions, creating an undesirable level of noise and commotion. Be sure that the developer plans to maintain a balance between individual units and shared facilities so that these amenities will comfortably accommodate all residents.

The public offering statement and resale package will specify whether the condominium is incorporated, which may protect you from personal liability for any action taken against the condominium. Any pending lawsuits or judgments involving the condominium should also be disclosed in both the public offering statement and resale package. Some types of litigation are routine, such as assessments against unit owners or lawsuits regarding covenant violations and fines associated with the violations. However, if there are many lawsuits, or one or more major lawsuits, you should consider whether it may negatively affect the operating budget of the condominium or your ability to sell the unit.

For the initial sale, the public offering statement must be presented to you with your sales contract. After receiving this information, you have 15 days to cancel the contract and receive a full refund of your earnest money.

If any material amendments are made to the public offering statement, they must also be sent to you. You may then cancel your contract within five days after receiving the amendments.

Maryland law requires developers to place all earnest money funds in an escrow account, or post a bond, to ensure that funds will be available if a down payment has to be refunded.

Likewise for a resale, the association’s documents must be provided to you within 15 days of closing, along with disclosures about the operation of the condominium that are similar to those in the public offering statement. Make sure you take advantage of this 15-day “cooling-off ” period. When you buy a condominium in Maryland, the law gives you this period of time to reconsider your decision. Condominium documents are complicated, but they provide you with important information. Read everything before you sign the sales contract. The contract will contain a clause, over your signature, stating that you have received and read specific documents.

If you are buying a condominium from an individual owner, you must receive a resale certificate package containing the declaration, bylaws, rules and regulations, and any other important information required by law at least 15 days prior to closing. Any seller who makes an untrue statement of a material fact, or omits a material fact, is liable to the buyer for the resulting damages.

Look for the current condominium financial statements, which should include a balance sheet, income/expense statements, and an operating budget. The owner can get this information from the council of unit owners within 21 days of a written request and payment of a reasonable fee, including minimal copying costs. You may cancel your sales contract and get a full refund of your down payment up to seven days after receiving the resale package, or until settlement, whichever occurs first. Be sure that you are not required to settle less than seven days after you receive the resale package.

If you are buying a unit in an older condominium, it might be exempt from sections of the Maryland Condominium Act and you will not have the benefit of disclosures required by condominium law. (The Maryland Condominium Act is under the jurisdiction of the Maryland Secretary of State and Attorney General.)

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About Dana Ash-McGinty 179 Articles
Dana Ash-McGinty is the Principal Broker of ASH | MCGINTY, a Washington, DC Real Estate Brokerage. This real estate maven has 15+ years experience in residential, commercial and land sales in addition to multi-state residential renovation, re-zoning, and condo conversion projects. A sought after real estate authority, she has been featured on CNN and in various real estate and financial publications. Dana is married to the highly esteemed Dr. Dana W. McGinty, a Washington, DC based internal medicine physician. They are often referred to as "The Danas".

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