About Thienel & Lusk

Thienel-Lusk is a small, independently owned firm that offers personalized service for small business owners and landlords. Our own entrepreneurial and property management background enables us to offer advice based on our experience, and to create a legal framework for clients that helps ensure their success.

Landlords and business owners have a wide range of legal needs – from ensuring contracts are expertly worded to defending themselves against allegations in court. Thienel-Lusk excels at handling those needs, and we understand how local laws may affect one’s rights and responsibilities. We regularly advise entrepreneurs in Frederick County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Washington County and Anne Arundel County, ensuring they’re aware of which federal, state, and local laws apply to them.

About Thienel & Lusk

Aspiring entrepreneurs have a lot of details to sort out before launching a business, and getting legal advice at this stage is an essential part of thoughtful planning. Thienel-Lusk has advised clients about their start-up concerns and has offered guidance for seasoned business owners who encounter new legal issues.

We offer services related to:

Organizational structure – Many new business owners choose to start out as a sole proprietor, because it’s a relatively simple organizational structure to create. But sole proprietors can be personally liable if any aspect of their business causes illness, damages or injury, meaning they could lose personal property and income in a civil proceeding. An attorney can help business owners understand the pros and cons of sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations and limited liability companies.

Formal partnerships – Going into business with a friend or family member may sound like a dream come true, but without the right legal agreements in place, it can turn into a nightmare. Any partnership needs a formal legal agreement between the partners that outlines the responsibilities and rights of each party, as well as how the partnership will be dissolved if one party wants out.

Formal partnerships – Going into business with a friend or family member may sound like a dream come true, but without the right legal agreements in place, it can turn into a nightmare. Any partnership needs a formal legal agreement between the partners that outlines the responsibilities and rights of each party, as well as how the partnership will be dissolved if one party wants out.

Other considerations when hiring workers may include how to conduct background checks and how to terminate an employee. Getting legal advice before hiring workers can help business owners avoid legal complications.

Property considerations – Entrepreneurs who buy their own building enjoy the freedom of modifying it to suit their needs, whereas leasing a commercial space may limit to what extent the space can be customized. Buying and maintaining a commercial property may be more costly than leasing in the short run, but if leasing, business owners should make sure the lease agreement specifies what rights tenants have if the owner decides to sell the property.

Family considerations – Entrepreneurs may not want to think about what will happen to their business in the event of their death, or if they should suffer from a disabling illness or injury. But succession planning ensures a business owner’s wishes will be honored, and it can minimize stress and confusion for families. Another family consideration for married entrepreneurs is what will happen in the event of divorce. Even when only one spouse is involved in the creation and management of a business, Maryland courts can determine in a divorce proceeding that each spouse is entitled to an equal share of the business if the spouses have not agreed otherwise.

Landlord Law

Whether renting commercial or residential property, being a landlord comes with some degree of risk. Tenants may end up falling behind on rent or terminating their lease early, and then landlords have to determine how to protect their own interests.

Thienel-Lusk understands the challenges landlords face and can offer legal help with:

Leases – If a tenant damages rental property or stops paying rent, a landlord must rely on the strength of the original lease agreement when attempting to collect money owed. A lease with wording that’s unclear may allow tenants to avoid responsibility. Even when landlords have a well-crafted lease, it’s a good idea to review it once a year – laws change, and leases may need to be revised to reflect those changes.

Fees – Maryland has strict laws regarding security deposits, application fees and late fees. Some landlords inadvertently break the law because they aren’t aware of how these laws apply to them. Furthermore, many counties, as well as the City of Baltimore, have their own tenancy laws or rental licensing laws, so a landlord may need to change procedures in accordance with local law.

Maintenance – Landlords must ensure a rental property is free of defects that could harm a tenant’s health and safety. For example, landlords must ensure tenants have working sewage systems and access to electricity and hot water (although if a utility provider disconnects service because of a tenant’s non-payment, the landlord is not liable). Failure to remedy serious maintenance defects can lead to costly legal action, and a tenant can ask the court to grant an escrow action, wherein rent is paid into a separate account unavailable to landlords until they make the required repairs.

The owner of a single rental property may be able to keep up with maintenance, but in multi-unit buildings, or when rental properties are scattered throughout the city, it may be necessary to hire maintenance staff to ensure repair requests are handled promptly.

Duties to other tenants – Part of a landlord’s obligation to provide a safe and habitable dwelling is to take action to correct dangers or nuisances not related to maintenance. For example, if a tenant reports that a neighbor in the apartment above is blasting loud music all night long, a landlord should take steps to address those concerns. Once landlords are aware of a hazard or nuisance – whether it’s a loud neighbor, a suspected drug dealer or a vicious dog on the premises – failing to address the problem could lead to legal problems.

Lead paint laws – Maryland’s laws regarding lead-based paint recently changed, bringing Maryland law into alignment with federal lead paint laws. Violation of these laws can result in hefty fines, as well as possible criminal charges. Landlords need to know which requirements apply to their rental properties, how to mitigate lead paint hazards and what documentation they need to show that they’re in compliance with the law.

Evictions and early lease termination – When a tenant stops paying rent, landlords must go through the proper legal channels to proceed with eviction. We provide guidance on this topic, as well as how to legally pursue tenants for unpaid rent, either as a result of eviction, or breaking their lease.

Defense in civil suits – Occasionally, tenants file suits against landlords, and those suits usually are based on allegations of improper maintenance or failure to have a rental license. We believe many of these cases can be resolved without going to court, but when litigation is necessary, we’re prepared to offer the strongest defense for our clients.