Maryland is viewed as a pro-landlord state because of its lack of rent control and its fairly rapid eviction procedure. While counties can and sometimes do add additional renter protections, most do not.
Prince George's County, Maryland, enacted ordinances impacting tenant protections from evictions and rent increases during the 2020 COVID-19 public health emergency, but these have since been terminated. The "bones" of Maryland eviction laws today are state laws.
Prince George's County Maryland Eviction Protections
During the health emergency resulting from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Prince George's County enacted a number of landlord-tenant ordinances to protect its residents from losing their rented homes. These laws included:
- Limiting rent increases during the emergency to 2.6 percent for most tenants.
- Enacting a total ban on rent increases for residents who had suffered a substantial loss of income during the lockdown.
- Precluding late fees or any other penalties during the emergency.
- Precluding evictions during the state of emergency due to unpaid rent.
These measures apply only to the state of emergency, defined to mean "the catastrophic health emergency declared by the governor of Maryland in March 2020, as amended or extended by the governor." The provisions protected tenants for a period extending 90 days after the end of the state of emergency.
Rent and Eviction Protections for COVID-19 Are Over
Governor Larry Hogan lifted the state of emergency as of July 1, 2021. There was an administrative grace period through August 15, 2021, but these rent and eviction protections are no longer in effect.
Prince George's County ordinances still prohibit evictions or rent hikes pursued by a property manager against tenants in the county as retaliation against a tenant for exercising any of their legal rights. These include reporting a health or safety issue, asking a landlord to repair the premises, or joining a tenant union.
Maryland Eviction Laws
Eviction is sometime portrayed on television as a self-help remedy, where brawny landlords dump tenants' possessions on the street and change the locks. This is largely fictional, since most states, including Maryland, outlaw self-help evictions.
Under Maryland state law, eviction is a court matter, and only a judge can determine whether a tenant should be evicted. However, courts must apply Maryland law when making that determination. Essentially, tenants can be evicted in this state for three general reasons:
- Nonpayment of rent.
- Failure to move out when the lease has ended.
- Breach of lease terms.
Eviction of Section 8 Tenants
Note that federal laws govern the eviction of Section 8 tenants, individuals who receive assistance from the federal government to pay rent.
These tenants cannot be evicted except for "good cause," meaning criminal activity, alcohol abuse, violations of law, serious or repeated lease violations, disturbing neighbors, destroying property, drug activity on the premises, or the refusal to accept new lease terms after an existing lease ends.
Eviction for Unpaid Rent
Failure to pay rent is the number-one reason that tenants are evicted across the country. It is also a top reason in the state of Maryland, where there is no automatic grace period. If the rental agreement specifies that rent is due on the first of the month, the rent is considered late on the second day of the month, and an eviction notice can be filed.
However, the law permits the parties to contract in the rental agreement to a grace period for paying rent. If there is a grace period in the lease or written agreement, this will control.
Landlords in Maryland do not need to give the tenant any written notice about unpaid rent before filing for eviction. In fact, Maryland laws do not specify a notice period for rent default, though some experts recommend a three-day notice.
Eviction for Breach of Lease
Examples of breach of lease violations that could provide justification for eviction include:
- Keeping a pet in a no-pet unit.
- Smoking in a no-smoking unit.
- Damaging the rental unit.
The notice for a breach eviction is 30 days. If the matter is an urgent one, such as a matter of health and safety, that period is reduced to 14 days.
Eviction for Holdovers
If the landlord gave the tenant written notice that they would not renew the lease at least one month before the end of the lease termination, no notice is required. The landlord may immediately file for eviction.
If the landlord did not give notice that the lease would not be renewed, the tenancy transforms into a periodic tenancy, usually called a month-to-month tenancy. At that point, the landlord does not need any reason to end the tenancy; they can evict for any reason other than illegal discrimination or illegal retaliation.
This is also the case with any periodic tenancy, where the tenant pays in advance to use the unit for a week or for a month. The written notice for ending these tenancies is seven days for a week-to-week tenancy, 30 days for a month-to-month tenancy or lease holdover.
Maryland Eviction Complaints
In order to evict a Maryland tenant for any reason, the landlord must head to court. If the tenant doesn't move out, the landlord completes a Complaint in Unlawful Detainer form and files it with the district court in the district in which the rental property is located.
The sheriff or county constable serves the tenant with a copy of the complaint and notice of a hearing. The hearing is held quickly, generally within five days.
If the tenant disputes the claim, the court hears arguments and evidence from both parties before making a decision. If the landlord wins, the court issues them a judgment for possession of the rental property. The sheriff or constable enforces the eviction order and, once the tenant is out of the unit, the landlord can change the locks.
Reclaiming Personal Property
At the time of an eviction, a tenant in Prince George's County is entitled to take all of their belongings with them. Landlords are forbidden from tossing the articles out onto the street. This may sound like a tenant protection measure, but it is not. Rather, the ordinance specifies that it is a matter of keeping the public way unencumbered.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.