Landlord Eviction Process in Maryland: A Comprehensive Guide
The eviction process in Maryland is straightforward for landlords who understand the state law requirements. A landlord may evict a tenant for violating lease terms or for reasons that cannot be blamed on the tenant.
A landlord commences the process with an eviction notice to the tenant. It could be a notice to remedy or quit based on the reasons for the eviction. However, where there are serious lease violations, the landlord doesn’t have to give a written notice.
Once a tenant receives an eviction notice, they should either comply with its demands or vacate the rental property. Failure to comply or vacate results in the landlord formally filing a lawsuit in a district court.
Here is a more detailed outline of the Maryland eviction process:
Sending an Eviction Notice to the Tenant
An eviction notice (or notice to quit) is necessary whenever there are lease agreement violations or a landlord wants to end a month-to-month tenancy.
Using the written notice, the landlord informs the tenant about the lease violation, possible remedies, and the period to comply.
Maryland landlords may send one of the following four types of eviction notices:
1. Immediate Notice for Rent Owed
If a tenant isn’t paying rent, the landlord may issue an immediate notice to pay rent or quit the rental property. The written notice serves as a courtesy for the tenant to pay rent.
However, the landlord isn’t obligated to write this notice. Instead, they can bypass it and file a case in court using a formal complaint form.
2. 14-Day Notice for Imminent Danger
A landlord can evict a tenant who could endanger their lives and those of other occupants of the rental unit or the entire building. In that case, the landlord issues a 14-day written notice.
3. 30-Day Notice for a Month-To-Month Tenancy
Tenants in Maryland are protected from immediate eviction without cause. A landlord may issue a 30-day written notice during the eviction process.
It effectively informs the tenant to prepare for the termination of the lease agreement in 30 days. Thus, the tenant can better prepare to move out of the rental unit.
4. 30-Day Notice for Non-Compliance
If a tenant breaches the terms of the lease agreement, other than failure to pay rent, the landlord may issue a 30-day termination notice.
The tenant has two options – to remedy the non-compliance or vacate the rental property. If there’s no remedy in 14 days, the landlord may sue the tenant at the district court.
Waiting for the Tenant to Comply
Maryland law requires tenants to respond to an eviction notice within the specified time formally. The tenant’s response determines the landlord’s next course of action. That may happen in two ways:
1. Correcting the Situation
The tenant must remedy the situation to keep staying in the house. If the notice was due to failure to pay rent, the tenant should complete the payment.
2. Failure to Correct the Situation
If the tenant isn’t ready to correct the situation, the landlord should approach a district court and file a case. Rent cases are totally avoidable when the tenant agrees to remedy the situation.
Filing an Eviction Lawsuit
When a landlord decides to file a wrongful detainer lawsuit, they will have given the tenant enough time to comply with any violations.
In the case of failure to pay rent, the tenant would have failed to submit the payment. Maryland landlords or property managers may file the complaint using any of the following district court forms:
1. Complaint for Non-Payment form
With this form, a property manager can start an eviction lawsuit formally. It is used in cases of failure to pay rent.
2. Complaint and Summons for a Violation of the Lease Form
When used by a landlord, this form presents a complaint for the summary ejection of a tenant due to a lease violation.
3. Petition for Warrant of Restitution
Once the eviction lawsuit is over and there’s a court order in favor of the landlord, this form helps ensure compliance.
A law enforcement officer would move any tenant in Maryland who refuses to quit a rental property on the strength of the warrant of restitution.
The landlord must pay court costs to file the suit. Additionally, they may pay the attorney fees if they choose to hire one.
Serving the Tenant with Summons and Complaint
If the landlord has issued a proper notice and the case is in court, they must also serve the tenant with the summons and complaint. Service is done through:
a judicial officer from the district court,
The summons and complaint could be posted on the property and mailed to the tenant via first-class mail.
Summons specify a trial date when the tenant must appear before a District Court judge. Typically, the trial date is the fifth day following the filing of the eviction case.
Appearance in Court
State law requires the landlord and tenant to appear in rent court on the specified date. The landlord and tenant must provide evidence to support their claims.
The landlord must address any questions and explain why they decided to evict a tenant. Maryland landlords can prepare for the court case by outlining responses to the common tenant defenses.
Common Tenant Defenses
During the eviction hearing, a tenant may defend themselves by claiming that:
the landlord didn’t repair critical appliances at the rental property,
they paid the costs of failure to pay rent plus the suit before the trial date,
the landlord threatened the tenant’s life through several unrepaired defects,
or the landlord failed to follow the formal Maryland eviction process,
What if a Tenant Doesn’t Appear in Court?
A tenant should respond to an eviction lawsuit by presenting a written answer and attending the court hearing. Failure to do so means the court will issue an order in favor of the landlord.
If the landlord wins the case, the court will issue a judgment for possession. As of the judgment date, the legal process is over, and the landlord can evict the tenant.
Filing a Warrant of Restitution
In the next step in the eviction process in Maryland, the landlord files a warrant of restitution. That marks the end of the eviction lawsuit. Using the warrant, a landlord can evict a tenant not more than 60 days after the judgment.
Repossession of the Rental Property
The landlord’s intent to evict the tenant can happen in two ways – soon after the judgment or after the issuance of a writ of restitution. In the first instance, the tenant moves out voluntarily.
However, in the second instance, a law enforcement officer such as that from the sheriff’s office can execute the warrant and remove the tenant from the rental property.
The landlord or property manager can then repossess the property. In that case, they would have to take good care of the tenant’s property.
Common Reasons for Eviction in Maryland
There are several reasons why a landlord may want to evict a tenant, with failure to pay rent being top of the list. Here are detailed descriptions of the reasons:
1. Failure to Pay Rent When It Is Due
In Baltimore City, rent is late a day after the due date. The lease agreement may, however, spell out a grace period. A landlord may protect themselves using rent collection software.
A landlord can evict a tenant who isn’t paying rent without written notice. However, there could be a notice to remind the tenant to pay. If they comply, they can keep staying in the rental unit.
2. Violation of the Rental Agreement
The rental agreement is sacrosanct, and the landlord and tenant must uphold it during the lease term. Of course, each lease agreement varies based on the tenant and landlord.
If the tenant violates the lease terms, the landlord issues a 60-day notice to quit. In cases of illegal activity or behavior that endangers oneself or other tenants, the landlord issues a 14-day notice.
In this case, violating lease terms means the following:
During the notice period, the tenant may resolve the violation or quit the rental property. If they do neither, the landlord files an eviction lawsuit.
3. Lease Non-Renewal on Expiry of the Rental Agreement
In Maryland, a landlord or property manager cannot evict a tenant without probable cause. If the tenant doesn’t violate any lease agreement provisions, they can stay until the end of the lease.
The landlord may issue any of the following types of notices:
7-day notice to quit
60-day notice to quit
90-day notice to quit
For rental properties in Baltimore City or Montgomery County, the types of notices above do not apply. In Montgomery County, a tenant who fails to renew a one-month to one-year lease gets a two-month notice to quit.
How Can Landlord Insurance Help?
Besides dealing with difficult tenants who do not want to pay rent or live in a rental property more responsibly, landlords in Maryland must grapple with other perils requiring landlord insurance coverage.
While state law in Maryland doesn’t require you to take landlord insurance, having it can protect against damage due to natural disasters, stolen property, or loss of rental income.
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