A lease or rental contract typically provides that a tenant must pay rent, obey specified rules and must leave when the lease ends. A tenant's failure to follow these obligations can lead to eviction.
Landlords in Prince George's County, Maryland must abide by state laws that list reasons and procedures for evictions and that give tenants certain rights to challenge or stop evictions. Prince George's County ordinances prohibit landlords from exacting the concession of tenants' rights to notices that a lease is ending. Landlords who rent to low-income tenants under Section 8 must follow federal rules that define grounds for eviction.
What are the Grounds for Eviction?
A landlord can evict a tenant for not paying rent, for staying after the lease ends or for violating lease requirements.
To evict a "hold-over" tenant – one who hasn't vacated when the lease has ended – a landlord must notify the tenant at least one month in advance. To evict for a violation, the lease must provide that the violation is a reason for eviction and the landlord must give the tenant 30 days notice, or 14 days if the violation presents a clear and imminent danger.
Most evictions are for non-payment of rent. Unlike other states, Maryland does not specify a notice period for rent default and some commentators recommend a notice period of just three days. Rent default is a type of lease violation, so the safest course of action might be to provide a standard 30-day notice.
No Eviction Without a Court Order
A landlord cannot evict a tenant without an order of the court. To obtain this, he must file a "Complaint in Unlawful Detainer" with the District Court where the property is located. The landlord can only file a complaint if the tenant does not respond to an initial eviction notice. If the tenant fixes the lease violation within 30 days, there's no longer any cause for an eviction and the landlord can not take the tenant to court. Otherwise, the sheriff or county constable will serve a copy of the complaint on the tenant. A hearing will typically be held within five days. The landlord will get a judgment for possession of the rental property if the tenant doesn't show up in court or fails to successfully challenge the eviction.
Appealing an Eviction
A tenant can challenge, or appeal, an eviction judgment to a higher level trial court or circuit court. A tenant being evicted for non-payment of rent has four days from the judgment date to appeal. In cases involving hold-over tenants and breaches of the lease, the deadline is 10 days after the judgment for eviction.
An appeal doesn't stop the eviction, however, unless the tenant brings and keeps the rent current and posts a bond for any damages the landlord might suffer before the appeal is completed.
Enforcing the Eviction
The court will issue an order for the sheriff to remove the tenant if it awards the landlord possession and the tenant does not appeal before the deadline passes. The landlord has 60 days from the judgment for possession to get a court order directing a sheriff or deputy to evict the tenant. The Sheriff will set an eviction date and notify the tenant. Generally, the tenant will be given just four days' notice to leave the premises for non-payment of rent.
Grounds for Evicting a Section 8 Tenant
Section 8 tenants receive assistance from the federal government to pay rent. These tenants cannot be evicted except for "good cause." According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's form for rental agreements, "good cause" includes criminal activity, alcohol abuse, violations of law, serious or repeated lease violations, disturbing neighbors, destroying property, activity on or near the premises involving illegal drugs and the failure or refusal to accept the landlord's new lease terms after the initial lease ends.