The Maryland eviction process has some unusual aspects that favor the landlord in most respects. But a landlord who attempts self-eviction measures to expel a tenant such as by removing the tenant’s belongings, shutting off utilities, denying the tenant access to the property or threatening the tenant, can find him or herself subject to criminal prosecution as well as civil liability to the tenant.
Nonpayment of Rent – 3 Day Notice Recommended
Most reasons for evictions are for nonpayment of rent. While most states give a tenant just a few days to a few weeks to comply with a notice to quit for failure to pay rent, the Maryland eviction process does not specify a notice period. We recommend a 3 Day Notice to give the tenant the opportunity to pay you the rent before you spend even more money filing the Wrongful Detainer Eviction Lawsuit. Once the lawsuit is filed, the tenant can stop the eviction by paying the entire rent due at any time before the Sheriff appears with a Warrant of Restitution.
The Maryland eviction notice for noncompliance with any other provision of the lease, such as by having unauthorized tenants or pets, requires a 30-day notice for the tenant to comply or the lease will terminate. In these cases, the Maryland eviction process requires that the notice specify the lease provision being violated, that it can be cured within 30-days, or the tenant must vacate or legal action will be brought.
The 30-day Maryland eviction notice is also required where the tenant is holding over, or is remaining on the premises after the lease has expired.
Should the tenant have engaged in conduct that is in breach of the lease and which constitutes a danger to the property, to other tenants or to the tenant, the Maryland eviction notice is 14-days. Also, the violation must be serious such as the commission of a serious criminal act or act of violence.
Service of Notice
The notice may be served by the Sheriff or Constable personally on the tenant. This is required if the landlord is seeking monetary damages. Otherwise, the Sheriff can post or leave the notice in a conspicuous location and send it by first-class mail.
Summons and Complaint in Wrongful Detainer
The next step in the Maryland eviction process requires the landlord to file a Summons and Complaint in wrongful Detainer, which is served by the Sheriff or Constable on the tenant. The hearing is held 5 days after the complaint is filed, excluding weekends and holidays.
Eviction hearings are held before a District Court judge only unless the amount of the claim exceeds $15,000, in which case it is transferred to the Circuit Court if a jury trial is requested. The landlord has the burden of proving that proper notice was served, if applicable, and show proof that the tenant has not paid the rent or has committed a serious violation of the lease agreement.
If the tenant fails to appear, a default judgment will be entered. Otherwise, the judge will hear arguments from both parties and consider any evidence presented.
Tenant Defenses to a Maryland Eviction
A tenant facing eviction has a number of defenses, including the following:
- The tenant offered to pay the entire rent but the landlord refused. By tendering the entire rent, the case should be dismissed.
- Retaliatory eviction. If the tenant complained to a government agency about the property or joined a tenants’ union, the tenant must prove that the primary reason for the eviction or the rent increase was in retaliation for the tenant’s actions.
- There was no serious violation of the lease.
- Improper notice was given.
- Housing code discrimination. If the eviction is based on the tenant’s religion, gender, race, family status, place of national origin, creed or disability, it is unlawful.
- The landlord failed to make repairs to remedy a condition that threatens the tenant’s life, health or safety. The judge will determine if a rent escrow should be set up.
In situations where the tenant has given written notice to the landlord to repair serious defects or unsafe conditions, which the landlord has failed to undertake after being given a reasonable time, the tenant may file a rent escrow action in court in which the tenant is required to pay the rent into the court.
The condition must be serious enough to constitute a threat to life, safety or health. This could include rodent infestation or the landlord’s breach of his or her obligation to provide heat, light, running water or electricity.
A hearing is held to determine if a rent escrow account should be established. If so, the judge can issue any of a number of orders. Examples include that the rent be returned to the tenant, that a special administrator be appointed to oversee that the repairs are done, or that the tenant pay all or part of the rent so that the repairs may be performed.
Judgment and Appeal
If the landlord prevails, the tenant has only 4 days to file an appeal in cases of nonpayment of rent, and 10 days for other breaches of the lease. The appealing tenant is required to post a bond to cover the cost of rent during pendency of the appeal.
Warrant of Restitution
If the tenant refuses to leave immediately, the landlord can obtain a Warrant of Restitution, which is filed one week after the court hearing. The Sheriff’s department is given the warrant and schedules an eviction date. The warrant must be served on the tenant at least 7 days before the eviction date. The tenant can still remedy the situation by paying the rent in full.
If the Sheriff does evict the tenant, the tenant’s belongings are removed by the Sheriff and placed on the public right-of-way. It is the tenant’s responsibility at this point to claim the property or anyone presumably may take the property.