Maryland COVID Eviction Rules

The COVID-19 pandemic has created problems and confusion for both landlords trying to collect rent and for tenants who are struggling to pay it. The fact that Maryland COVID eviction rules keep changing adds to the confusion. Tenants who become ill or lose their jobs due to the virus may be unable to make rent payments, but landlords who depend on this money to pay their own bills need to be paid. While no landlord wishes to evict a tenant who cannot pay rent due to the epidemic, as landlords face their own COVID-related problems and lost income, they may find themselves with no choice but to replace delinquent tenants with tenants who can pay their rent. Whether you are a landlord or a tenant faced with eviction issues, Maryland landlord-tenant law attorney Rebekah Lusk, who leads the Landlord/Tenant practice at Lusk Law, LLC, understands what you are going through and is available to help. Lusk Law manages a wide variety of landlord/tenant cases, including failure to pay rent, wrongful detainer, tenant holding over, and violations of the Consumer Protection Act. Rebekah is also a landlord, so she knows from firsthand experience how to find solutions for both commercial and residential legal disputes and eviction issues. Call Lusk Law, LLC today at (443) 535-9715 to learn more about the legal steps involved in an eviction and how we can assist you to resolve your problems.

Maryland COVID Eviction Rules Have Changed

The State of Maryland has attempted to help citizens manage financially during the COVID pandemic. In March 2020, Governor Larry Hogan issued an emergency order that prohibited Maryland courts from evicting any tenant who can show that their failure to pay rent was the result of COVID-19 or the related state of emergency. The stay for residential evictions was lifted effective Saturday, July 25, 2020, as Maryland entered Phase III of its reopening plan, which lasts until August 30, 2020. Until that time, a case about failure to pay rent that was filed before March 27, 2020, and that had been pending with the court will be scheduled to go to trial on or after Monday, August 31, 2020. However, as of August 2020, the Governor still requires that the courts cannot issue a warrant for restitution, the pre-eviction documents, or a judgment for possession, as long as the tenants can show that they suffered a substantial loss of income due to:
  • Being sick with COVID
  • Job loss
  • Reduction in compensated hours of work
  • The need to miss work to care for a school-aged child.
Even if they are protected from eviction, both residential and commercial tenants are still required to pay rent. If rent is not being paid, landlords have remedies other than eviction, including actions for collection as allowed under the leases with tenants. Landlords also can continue to charge late fees. The order is intended to be temporary and end when Maryland’s state of emergency is ended. While tenants can use this order to defend against eviction, it is up to the courts to decide whether there is enough evidence to support this defense. To qualify, tenants must appear in court and provide documentation such as wage statements showing drop of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If a landlord does not think the tenants qualify for special COVID protection, the landlord may ask the court for permission to evict the tenant, called “summary ejectment.” Eviction cases are filed and heard in the District Court of the county where the property is located, and local courts may have their own orders regarding eviction. A consultation with Lusk Law can clarify what to do in your individual situation. Call us today at (443) 535-9715.

Can Landlords Evict Tenants in Maryland during the COVID Pandemic?

The rules for filing for eviction may well change after August, but even before August 30, landlords are allowed to file for eviction if they believe that tenants who have not been paying rents do not qualify for protection. The following are the procedures involved:
  1. File a Complaint– According to Md. Code, Real Property § 8-401 (a) and (b), if a tenant does not pay rent that is due, landlords may file a written complaint in the District Court to ask for:
  • the amount of rent due
  • any court costs, and
  • to repossess the property.
  1. Get a Summons– If you have the right to repossess the property, the court will issue a “summons” for the tenant to appear before a District Court judge. The tenant must answer the summons and show cause why the landlord should not repossess the property.
  2. Attend a Rent Hearing – Landlords and tenants may have a lawyer or certain non-lawyers represent them in court and argue for their interests.

Resolving an Eviction Case

If the landlord wins the case, the tenant will be ordered to pay the rent owed within four days and if they don’t, they must leave the property. If the tenant does not pay the amount owed or leave the property, landlords may request that the court issue a “warrant of restitution,” and the sheriff will allow the landlord to repossess the property and remove the tenant’s belongings. Tenants may receive an extension of time of up to 15 days after the trial by providing a physician’s certificate stating that eviction would cause endangerment. Both tenants and landlords may appeal the court order within four days after it has been issued. Tenants have the right to remain in the leased premises by paying all past due rent and late fees, plus court-awarded costs and fees at any time before the actual eviction.

Contact Lusk Law for Help with Eviction Issues

While, until recently, many tenants have managed to pay their rent with the help of government unemployment payments and stimulus checks, now that they have ended, many people will no longer be able to do so. As of August 31, 2020, Maryland courts will resume a broader range of activities, including hearing cases for eviction, which are expected to increase. Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, eviction is a stressful, disruptive, and expensive process. At Lusk Law, we may be able to negotiate a payment plan that can help avoid eviction and keep rental units occupied. If eviction is inevitable, we can represent your interests in court and help you get a favorable outcome. We help clients across Maryland, so contact us today at (443) 535-9715 to discuss your eviction or other landlord/tenant issues.