Eviction is a legal process through which landlords can remove tenants who violate the terms of their lease agreement. There are various kinds of violations that can result in a tenant or occupant being evicted.
The eviction process generally involves several steps that we’ll talk about in this article. However, eviction laws can vary depending on the rules and regulations of a state or a particular jurisdiction.
This article will guide you about the Maryland eviction laws, the necessary steps you need to follow, and the timeline involved in evicting a tenant in Maryland.
Maryland Eviction Laws – Reasons for Eviction
A tenant can be evicted for several reasons, such as failure to pay the rent on time, violating the lease agreement, carrying out illegal activities, or non-renewing the rental agreement.
Non-payment of Rent
If a tenant fails to pay his rent as agreed upon in the agreement, it’s a valid ground for eviction in Maryland. Landlords must follow specific procedures and send written notice 30 days before initiating the eviction process due to non-payment of rent.
Lease Violations and Breaches
When a tenant violates the rental terms of the agreement, such as unauthorized subletting, property damage, or unauthorized pets, landlords may have grounds for eviction. Proper documentation and notice requirements should be followed. A landlord must send a written notice to the tenant to vacate the property 30 days before filing an eviction lawsuit.
Illegal Activities and Nuisance
Involvement in unlawful activities on the rental property or causing significant disturbances that interfere with other tenants’ peaceful enjoyment can allow the landlord to evict the tenant in Maryland. Landlords must gather evidence and follow the necessary legal steps.
The following are some examples of illegal activity that could lead to eviction in Maryland:
- Drug dealing or manufacturing
- Gang activity
- Violence or threats of violence
- Severe property damage
Holding over Beyond the Lease Term
If a tenant continues living in the property after the lease term has ended without the landlord’s permission, it can be grounds for eviction. Again, a written notice must be given to the tenant before initiating the eviction process.
The Eviction Process in Maryland
The eviction process in Maryland includes the following steps:
1. Landlord Issues a Notice to Tenant
The landlord is supposed to deliver a written notice to the tenant, instructing them to vacate the property. The length of the notice period depends on the reason for the eviction:
- Non-payment of rent: 30 days
- Breach of lease: 30 days
- Illegal activity: 14 days
- Holding over after the lease expires: 60 days
2. File a Lawsuit
If the tenant fails to leave the premises within the specified notice period, the landlord can file a lawsuit for eviction. The landlord must file the lawsuit in the District Court of Maryland in the county where the property is located.
3. Responding to the Lawsuit
The tenant must answer the lawsuit within 30 days. If the tenant does not answer the lawsuit, the landlord may be awarded a default judgment.
4. Court Hearing
The court will schedule a hearing on the eviction lawsuit. During the hearing, the landlord and tenant can present their evidence and arguments. The judge will then decide on whether to evict the tenant.
5. Writ of Restitution
In the event that the judge decrees the eviction of the tenant, the landlord must obtain a Writ of Restitution from the court. The Writ of Restitution orders the sheriff to evict the tenant.
The sheriff will schedule a date and time to evict the tenant. The sheriff will physically remove the tenant and their belongings from the property.
What Can Happen if a Tenant Does Not Vacate the Property?
If a tenant does not vacate the property after the eviction process is complete, the landlord may be able to take the following steps:
File a contempt of court order: The landlord can file a contempt of court order against the tenant. This is a criminal charge that can result in fines or jail time.
Hire a sheriff to evict the tenant: The landlord can hire a sheriff to remove the tenant from the property physically. The sheriff will also change the locks so that the tenant cannot get back in.
Sue the tenant for damages: The landlord can sue the tenant for damages, such as unpaid rent, court costs, and the cost of hiring a sheriff.
It is important to note that these are just some of the things that can happen if a tenant does not vacate the property after the eviction process is complete. The specific consequences will depend on the specific circumstances of the case.
What Rights Do Tenants Have During the Eviction Process?
It is important to remember that in Maryland, as in many other states, tenants have some rights that all landlords must acknowledge. These are as follows:
● The right to a hearing
Tenants have the right to a hearing before a judge before they can be evicted. This allows the tenant to present their side of the story and to challenge the landlord’s reasons for eviction.
● The right to be represented by an attorney
Tenants have the right to be represented by an attorney at their hearing. If the tenant cannot afford an attorney, the court may appoint one.
● The right to stay on the property until the hearing
Tenants have the right to stay in the property until the hearing, even if the landlord has given them a notice to vacate.
● The right to be free from discrimination
Tenants cannot be evicted because of their race, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability.
● The right to a safe and habitable home
Landlords are required to provide tenants with a safe and habitable home. If the landlord fails to do this, the tenant may be able to withhold rent or break the lease.
Related: Maryland Legal Aid provides free legal assistance to low-income Marylanders.
Tips for Landlords and Tenants to Avoid Eviction
It is highly advised for landlords and tenants to avoid eviction due to its significant consequences for both parties. Evictions can lead to financial hardships, legal complications, damage to credit history, and strained relationships.
Here are some tips both parties can implement to help avoid circumstances that might lead to eviction:
Tips for Landlords:
- Draft a detailed lease agreement that clearly outlines both parties’ expectations, rules, and responsibilities to minimize misunderstandings.
- Maintain open communication lines with tenants to promptly address any concerns, requests, or issues. Encourage tenants to report problems early on to prevent them from escalating.
- Send rent payment reminders in advance and provide convenient payment options to help tenants stay on track with rent payments.
- Consider offering flexible payment plans or arrangements to tenants facing temporary financial difficulties, as it can help them catch up on overdue rent.
- Conduct routine property inspections and promptly address maintenance requests to ensure tenants’ living conditions are satisfactory.
Tips for Tenants:
- Thoroughly review the lease agreement before signing and seek clarification on any unclear clauses or terms.
- Make it a priority to pay rent on time each month. Set reminders or automate payments to avoid late payments.
- If facing financial difficulties, promptly communicate with the landlord, explain the situation, and explore potential solutions such as payment plans or temporary rent reductions.
- Maintain the rental property, follow any rules or restrictions outlined in the lease agreement, and be considerate of neighbors to prevent conflicts.
- Notify the landlord promptly about any maintenance or repair needs to prevent them from worsening and potentially causing disputes.