This year, the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service will be advocating for equitable laws by monitoring and participating in the General Assembly’s legislative activities. Two primary areas of focus for MVLS are housing stabilization and criminal record relief.
Some of the key bills we’re supporting are:
Transfer to Heir – Exemption from Prepayment Legislation. MVLS clients who are fighting hard to save their family home are often kept from recording the necessary new deed because of delinquent property taxes, water bills or environmental citations. This bill allows for deed transfers in certain situations where payment of taxes and municipal liens would not be required before the deed transfer takes place. Liens will remain on the property. This would allow for low-income residents in tangled title situations to avail themselves of the Homeowners’ Property Tax Credit, as well as critical repair programs, making it more likely that they will be able to stay in the home long term.
Tax Sales Reform. MVLS is supporting this bill which, among other items, would increase the amount a homeowner must be delinquent to be put into tax sale to $1,000, and would remove properties which only owe water and sewer bill liens from tax sale statewide.
Renters’ – MVLS is supporting two bills that increases the income and asset limits for the Renters’ Tax Credit. This credit provides low income renters with a tax credit for the portion of their rent that goes towards property taxes. The income and asset limits to qualify for this credit have not been increased in years so the time is overdue for increasing them.
Homeowners’ – MVLS is similar bills that increases the income and asset limits for the Homeowners’ Tax Credit.
Expanding “Good Cause” Expungement – MVLS is supporting legislation to provide judges with the ability to determine “good cause” grounds for expungement involving convictions.
Addressing In Re Abhishek – MVLS is also supporting legislation to address the recent court decision in In Re Abhishek, in which the court found unsatisfactorily completed sentences (including violations parole/probation) were ineligible for expungement. Violations of probations can be for a variety of reasons, including many potentially poverty related, like missing your parole or probation meeting when your bus didn’t come or you didn’t have child care. The court’s ruling is overly broad and has a significantly negative impact on individuals who otherwise successfully completed their sentence.
Clean Slate – MVLS is collaborating with the Clean Slate Initiative to support a bill that would expand automatic expungement to include all cases eligible under current law. Automatic expungement is currently limited to non-convictions that occurred after October 1st, 2021.