LEGAL UPDATE - SUMMER 2020
Duplicative Licensing Requirement Avoided in Maryland. Maryland Senate Bill 496 would have imposed a needless and burdensome state-based business license for Maryland storage owners, who already must have several local licenses. Under current law, warehouses are required to obtain a state business license to operate. Senate Bill 496 sought to expand the definition of warehouse to expressly include self storage. The bill would have imposed a licensing fee schedule based upon the population of where the self storage facility was located. The MD-SSA successfully advocated for the removal of self storage from the bill.
The national SSA has many resources and webinars available focused on COVID-19 and our industry. Click here to access news about COVID-19 and self storage. Invitations to register for the webinars are being sent to state and national members, specifically, the primary contact's email address.
For the latest information from Maryland on the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the governor’s office website and your state’s department of health here. Be sure to carefully monitor the situation and check on updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) www.cdc.gov, regulatory agencies as well as local health officials.
Please also read the letter from Tim Dietz, SSA President and CEO, that provides resources and information related to states of emergency and pricing restrictions here.
BUILDING CODES UPDATE
Changes to the International Building Code Affect Self Storage
With the support of its Code Committee, the Self Storage Association successfully pursued several key changes to the 2021 International Building Code.
- An exception has been added to IBC Section 2902.3.3 to permit an increase in the location (to greater than every other floor) and maximum distance of travel (to greater than 500 ft) for restrooms. The location and travel distance must be approved by the code official.
- The maximum allowable height of sprinklered facilities made of Type IIB materials (unprotected steel) and Type IIIB materials (noncombustible or fire-retardant-treated wood stud exterior walls and any interior construction) has been increased from 3 stories to 4 stories. The Code continues to have total floor and building square footage limits.
- Pursuant to modified IBC Section 903.2.9, storage facilities are exempt from the automatic sprinkler system requirement if: (1) the total fire area is 12,000 sq. ft. or less; (2) the combined total fire areas are 24,000 sq. ft. or less; (3) the facility is no greater than one story above grade plane; and (4) all storage spaces are accessed directly from the exterior.
These changes go into effect as they are adopted by local and state governments over the next several years. Prior to the adoption on the local and state level, storage developers can request that the code official rely on the 2021 changes as acceptable alternative methods of construction pursuant to section 104.11 of the existing International Building Code.
Please email Joe Doherty with any questions or to receive supporting documentation for these changes.
November 15, 2020
New Maryland Employment Law In Effect
A new Maryland employment law took effect on October 1 that prohibits mandatory disclosure of pay history by a prospective employee. Additionally, upon request, employers must provide to an applicant the wage range for the position.
It also requires that employers in the state, including self storage owners and operators, to not retaliate against or refuse to interview, hire, or employ an applicant because they did not provide wage history or requested the wage range for the position that he or she applied.
Employers may not rely upon wage history for employment screening or considering the applicant for employment or in determining the wages for the applicant or seek the wage history for an applicant.
After the employer makes an initial offer of employment (with an offer of compensation), an employer may:
· Rely on wage history voluntarily provided by the applicant for employment to support a wage offer higher than the initial wage offered; or,
· Seek to confirm the wage history voluntarily provided by the applicant for employment to support a wage offer higher than the initial wage offered by the employee.
Further, employers may not discharge or otherwise discriminate against an employee or applicant because he or she makes a complaint or brings action under the law.
In addition to damages, the statute permits the assessment of civil penalties that increase depending upon the gravity of the violation, size of the employer, and the employer’s history of violation.
MD-SSA members should review the new law carefully to ensure their hiring practices are consistent with the mandates and prohibitions of the law.
October 8, 2020
Prince George’s County, MD Conducting COVID-19 Facility Inspections
Prince George’s County has commenced COVID-19 inspections, examining if businesses are complying with applicable social distancing, cleaning, and other requirements related to COVID-19. At least two MDSSA members have been inspected.
As the legal basis for its enforcement efforts, the inspectors cite Governor Hogan’s Executive Order 20-04-05-02 “Delegating Authority to Local Health Officials to Control and Close Unsafe Facilities,” Executive Order 20-09-28-01 “Amending and Restating the Order of September 18, 2020, Allowing Reopening of Certain Businesses, Subject to Local Regulation, and Generally Requiring Use of Face Coverings,” Prince George’s County Code 6-134, and several local orders and directives that can be accessed here.
Among other provisions, county officials have inspected and cited for the following:
- Signage to promote social distancing (e.g., floor markers);
- Protocols for training employees;
- Screening process for employees;
- Number of individuals allowed in facility for social distancing;
- Failure to promote social distancing outside of the facility;
- Customer seating staged to ensure social distancing;
- Social distancing compliance in the facility, work areas, break rooms, lockers and entry;
- Availability of hand washing stations;
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices;
- Failure to wear face masks; and,
- Failure to provide signage regarding face make requirement.
County inspectors are issuing reports to non-compliant businesses, threatening to impose fines and even close businesses that do not remedy their issues.
MDSSA members should review all of the orders outlined above and implement the required measures. Also, we encourage members to provide advance notice to their store managers that it is possible that they may be visited by an inspector. Finally, develop a plan for how you will proceed should the inspector arrive. Be courteous. We recommend that the manager accompany the inspector (while observing appropriate social distance) and take notes of the inspection to ensure that the inspector’s report is consistent with the manager’s observations.
August 6, 2020
Disaster Readiness Resources
As an MDSSA member you have access to a large library of information, resources and legal help related to preparing and navigating through disasters.
Click here to access the complete library on the national SSA website. Topics include:
Price Gouging Laws
Water and Humidity
Legal Help, Self Storage Legal Network , Affiliate Plan
Communication Plan and More!
Click here for your state’s emergency management agency.
Click here for the complete communication that was sent to members.
May 28, 2020
MDSSA Defeats Prince George’s County Bill
MDSSA is pleased to announced that it has successfully defeated a Prince George’s County bill that would have restricted lockouts, late fees, lien sales, and rent increases for self storage tenants. Earlier this week, the County Council completely removed self storage from the bill, which now deals only with residential rentals.
Many thanks to our longtime MDSSA lobbyist, Bruce Bereano, and the members who submitted opposition letters.
April 1, 2020
New Leave Law to Impact Storage Industry, Effective April 1
As reported last week, the new federal leave law takes effect on April 1. Employers must provide notice to their employees immediately if they have not done so already. The notice can be found here.
SSA’s updated FAQs can be found here. The updated FAQs answer questions on issues such as the posting requirements for the notice and the limited exemption available to employers with fewer than 50 employees.
The Department of Labor’s complete FAQs can be found here.
Employers are strongly encouraged to discuss the new law with their legal counsel. Please email Joe Doherty, firstname.lastname@example.org, with any questions.
March 30, 2020
New MD Order Still Allows Self Storage Operations to Continue
Earlier today Governor Hogan issued a shelter-in-place order that expands on his previous order requiring the closure of non-essential businesses.
Self storage is still designated as an essential business and may remain open. Self storage operators in Maryland are encouraged to provide on-site employees with letters explaining the status of self storage as essential. A sample letter can be found here.
Per guidance from the Governor’s office, essential businesses must make every effort to scale down their operations in order to reduce the number of required staff, to limit interactions with customers, and to institute telework for as much of the workforce as is practical.
Please email Joe Doherty or Daniel Bryant with any questions.
March 24, 2020
New Maryland Price Gouging Law in Effect
On March 19, Governor Hogan signed HB 1663 into law, which limits cost increases for certain goods and services during the current coronavirus emergency. More specifically, it prohibits a retailer from increasing the sale or rental price of any good or service to a price that increases the retailer’s value of profit by more than 10%, including for the price of: food; fuel; water and ice; medicine; medical supplies and equipment; cleaning products; building supplies and equipment; energy sources; and storage space. The price restrictions are currently operative and will remain in effect until at least April 30, 2021. Until that date, unless modified or extended, MD-SSA members may not raise rental rates for current tenants or the “street rates” for prospective customers in a way that increases the operator’s value of profit more than 10%. Consultation with your legal counsel is strongly advised before altering rates.
The Maryland Self Storage Association, together with the national Self Storage Association, has been very successful in enacting its legislative agenda. However, vigilance remains an important posture as changes to current law, new regulations or other disruptive policy issues could be lurking.
Update 2.16.18: Maryland Healthy Working Families Act
Starting on February 11, 2018, most Maryland employers will be required to provide sick leave to their employees. Last month, the Maryland General Assembly overrode Governor Hogan's veto to pass the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act ("the Act"), Maryland's new paid sick leave law, click here for more information.