Maryland Landlord Law Attorneys
A rental property can be a great source of revenue, as long as landlords are prepared to handle any challenges they may face.
Landlords must have a plan for a number of scenarios, including what to do when tenants stop paying rent. They must also fully understand their rights and responsibilities, according to Maryland landlord-tenant law.
At Lusk Law, LLC, we have helped entrepreneurs prepare for success as landlords, and we have represented longtime landlords in court when litigation was required. We have a deep understanding of landlord-tenant law, because, firm owners and attorneys, Rebekah Lusk and Steven Bright, are landlords, too. If you need legal advice about your business, your rental property, or your tenants, contact our office at 443-535-9715.
Common Maryland Tenant Issues
Interactions with tenants – from the initial screening process to the end of their lease – can trigger several legal issues for landlords. These are some of the common missteps new landlords make:
- Violation of fair housing laws – Maryland landlords are prohibited from asking tenants about race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual preference, national origin, disability, or familial status. But even when landlords know this, they might inadvertently make a statement that could be interpreted as discriminatory. For example, a landlord who publishes an ad for a vacancy would be in violation of fair housing laws if the ad said “married couple preferred.”
- Failing to return the security deposit – Landlords may retain some or all of a security deposit to cover unpaid rent or actual damage to the property, but the deposit can’t be used to cover normal wear and tear (such as worn carpeting). When legally retaining the security deposit, landlords must notify tenants in writing within 45 days of the tenant’s vacating the property, or they forfeit their right to keep the deposit and may be liable for damages up to three times the security deposit and attorney’s fees.
- Failing to follow eviction protocol – Maryland does not allow landlords to evict tenants on their own; instead, landlords must file a complaint and summons in the county where the rental property is located, obtain a judgment for possession of the property, file the warrant for the eviction and must be accompanied by the Sheriff on the day of the eviction.
The Importance of a Well-Crafted Lease
A lease that is vague in any way can cause major problems for landlords. For example, it’s not enough to say, “Rent is due on the first of the month.” The lease must specify:
- The dollar-amount of the rent
- On what day rent is considered late
- Whether late fees will be assessed and, if so, how much the fees are
- Which forms of payment are acceptable
- The consequences of a “bounced” rent check.
A thorough lease should also include:
- The names and signatures of all adult tenants, as well as rules about occupancy (such as only adults who have signed the lease, and their minor children, may live on the property)
- A pet policy (and if pets are allowed, a policy regarding pet deposits/pet rent)
- A policy on illegal use of the property
- Language that explains when the landlord may enter the property/how much notice must be given before entry
- A maintenance policy that defines responsibilities for the tenant and the landlord.
Landlords must make every effort to repair defects that are dangerous or could cause harm. That includes issues such as a lack of heat, hot water, or electricity (unless a utility provider stopped service because of the tenant’s non-payment). Neglected maintenance is one of the biggest causes of landlord-tenant disputes, and it can lead to legal trouble.
Tenants have the right to ask the court to create a rent escrow account if a landlord has not repaired a serious defect on the property. If the court approves the request, the tenant pays rent to that account – not the landlord – and the court holds it until the defect is repaired. However, what sometimes happens is that tenants simply stop paying rent, in an effort to compel their landlord to perform repairs. That is ground for eviction, regardless of the condition of the property.
When a rental property has a yard, the lease should specify whether the landlord or tenant is responsible for its maintenance. (If it’s the tenant’s responsibility to mow the grass, the landlord should periodically look to ensure the grass is being mowed regularly).
Legal Advice for Maryland Landlords
Lusk Law, LLC., helps landlords by creating leases that protect their interests and by providing legal guidance throughout the life of their business. Whether you’re thinking about becoming a landlord or you’re already a landlord, we can answer your questions and help you with any legal challenges you may face. Contact us online, or call us at 443-535-9715, to schedule your consultation.
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