Landlord-Tenant Law & Evictions in Maryland
Landlord-Tenant Law & Evictions in Maryland
Common Reasons for Eviction
The most common reasons for Eviction are for failing to pay rent or violating the lease agreement. When trying to evict a tenant for one of these reasons, a landlord must carefully follow the rules set forth in the Maryland statutes or Landlord will not be successful.
Failure to Pay Rent
The most common reason tenants are evicted is because they do not pay rent. In Maryland, the landlord may begin eviction proceedings without prior notice to Tenant. If the tenant does not pay rent the day it is due, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit the very next day. However, the tenant can stop the eviction by paying all rent due and owing, including late fees and any court costs, on or before the date of the hearing before the judge (see Md. Code Ann. [Real Prop.] § 8-401).
Another common reason for eviction is because the tenant violates the lease. For an eviction based on a lease violation, a landlord is required to give the tenant notice before filing the eviction lawsuit with the court. If the tenant's lease violation can cause danger to themselves or to someone else on the property, the landlord is required to give the tenant a 14-day notice. For lease violations that do not cause harm to another person, the landlord is required to give the tenant a 30-day notice. Both types of notice must state that the tenant must fix the violation within the appropriate time frame or the landlord will file the eviction lawsuit with the court (see Md. Code Ann. [Real Prop.] § 8-402.1).
Eviction Process in Maryland
To begin the eviction lawsuit, a landlord must file a complaint and summons in the district court. After the complaint and summons are filed, the tenant will receive a copy of the paperwork. The summons will have a date and time on it for a hearing before a judge. If the tenant wishes to challenge the eviction, the tenant must appear at the hearing.
Eviction Defenses in Maryland
DEFENSES TO LEASE VIOLATIONS AND FAILURE TO PAY RENT
Landlord Evicts Tenant with a "Self-Help" Eviction
The only way a landlord can legally evict a tenant is by receiving a court order. It is unlawful for a landlord to try to evict a tenant through any other means, such as changing the locks on the doors or shutting off the utilities (see In re Promower, Inc., v. Scuderi, et al., 56 B.R. 619 (U.S. Bankruptcy Court, D. Maryland, 1986)). A tenant who is evicted with a "self-help" eviction can often sue the landlord for damages.
Landlord Does Not Follow Proper Eviction Regulations
The rules for evictions are set forth in the Maryland statutes, and it is very important that a landlord follow these rules when attempting to evict a tenant.
When evicting someone for a lease violation, the landlord must give the tenant a 30-day notice, as long as the violation is not harming any other person on the property. The landlord must wait the full 30 days before filing the eviction lawsuit with the courts. If the landlord files the eviction lawsuit before the 30-day time frame has ended, then the tenant can challenge the eviction based on lack of proper notice. The eviction would likely stop, and the landlord would have to give the tenant a new 30-day notice. At the end of the full 30 days, the landlord would need to file a new eviction lawsuit.
Landlord Evicts Tenant for Not Paying Rent
If being evicted for failing to pay rent, a tenant has until the day of the eviction hearing to pay rent in full, including late fees, interest, and court costs. As long as the tenant pays everything due and owing to the landlord by the date of the hearing, the landlord must not continue with the eviction and the case will be closed (see Md. Code Ann. [Real Prop.] § 8-401(c)(5)). A tenant paying rent late like this should ask for a time-stamped receipt, which can be used as a defense in case the landlord continues with the eviction anyway.
Landlord Did Not Maintain the Rental Unit
Under Maryland law, a landlord is required to repair any conditions at a rental unit that could be a fire hazard or a serious threat to the life, health, or safety of the tenants. The landlord must:
- provide heat, light, electricity, and hot and cold running water
- provide adequate sewage disposal facilities
- ensure there are no rodent infestations on the property, and
- repair any structural defects that could threaten the physical safety of the tenants.
If the rental unit needs repair in one of these areas, the tenant must provide written notice to the landlord stating the necessary repairs. If the landlord does not make the repairs within 30 days, the tenant has two options. The tenant can either stop paying rent altogether or pay rent into an escrow account held by the court, rather than pay rent directly to the landlord, until the landlord makes the necessary repairs. The tenant can also petition the court for a judgment against the landlord requiring the landlord to make the repairs.
If the landlord decides to evict the tenant for not paying rent, the tenant can defend against the eviction by showing that the landlord failed to make necessary repairs to the rental unit (see Md. Code Ann. [Real Prop.] § § 8-211 and8-211.1).
Landlord Evicts Tenant for Violating the Lease Agreement
A landlord is required to give a tenant either a 14- or 30-day notice if the tenant has violated the lease. The tenant will then have either 14 or 30 days to correct the lease violation before the landlord files the eviction lawsuit. If the tenant corrects the violation within the appropriate time frame, the landlord must not proceed with the eviction (see Md. Code Ann. [Real Prop.] § 8-402.1(a)(1)(i)(3)). If the tenant fixes the violation but the landlord proceeds with the eviction anyway, the tenant can use proof that the violation was fixed as a defense to the eviction.