Tips on Handling Rent Increase and Quit/Vacate Notices

Maryland landlord-tenant laws are sometimes quite detailed, especially regarding the information that must be included in written notices. An incorrectly worded notice, or one that’s not delivered in a timely manner, can lead to legal problems, so it’s a good idea to review the applicable laws before issuing a notice. Following is a refresher on some common notices.

Quit/Vacate Notices

Whether it’s the landlord or tenant ending the rental agreement, all quit/vacate notices must be in writing and must specify the date by which the tenant will vacate the property. Depending on the term of the lease and the location of the rental property, the notice must be provided within a specific time period prior to the termination of the lease.  Generally, notice must be given at least one month prior to the expiration of the term; however, if it is a year-to-year tenancy, then notice must be given three months before the expiration of the term. While a landlord may issue a vacate notice at any time, the termination date must be at the end of the tenancy and cannot be mid-month. For example, if the tenancy is month-to-month, the landlord must give notice prior to the final month of the lease. If there is a breach of the lease, a landlord is required to provide 30 days’ notice to vacate, or 14 days if the breach of lease creates an imminent hazard to the tenant, other occupants of the property, or the landlord. It is important to review the local jurisdictional rules. For example in Montgomery County, except in the case of a single family dwelling, the notice by the landlord must be two months, even for month-to-month tenancies.

About Early Termination

Occasionally, a tenant may ask to terminate a lease early. There are certain local, state, and federal rules that may permit an early termination. For example, in Montgomery County, if a tenant must terminate for reasons beyond a tenant’s control, such as unemployment, or the death of a household wage-earner, a tenant may vacate early and be liable for one month’s rent or the actual damages incurred, whichever is less. So, if a landlord found new tenants for the property, and it was vacant only two weeks, the previous tenant would be liable for only the two weeks the property was vacant. Maryland law permits active duty military to terminate a lease if they receive permanent change of station orders or temporary change of station orders for 90 days or more. Their liability for rent may not exceed thirty days after written notice and proof of assignment is given to the landlord, plus the cost of repairing damages to the premises, if any. For reasons within a tenant’s control, such as vacating to buy a house or move in with a partner, the tenant’s liability for rent ends as soon as new tenants take occupancy.

Rent Increase Notices

While there is no Maryland law regarding rent increases, local jurisdictions may have their own laws. For example, in Montgomery County notices of rent increase must be in writing and state current rent, the new rent amount, the percent increase, and a statement advising tenants that they may contact the Department of Housing and Community Affairs if the increase seems excessive. The notice must be delivered to the tenant at least two months in advance of the increase and must correspond with due date cycle. Landlords may increase a tenant’s rent only once within a 12-month period. The proper wording of notices, leases, and any other documents presented to tenants can help prevent conflict. If a conflict does arise, Lusk Law, LLC, is ready to assist property owners facing formal complaints or litigation. Landlords in Frederick County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Washington County, and Anne Arundel County, and throughout Maryland can rely on us to handle residential or commercial landlord-tenant cases. Our attorneys are also barred in the District of Columbia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and federal courts. With over a decade of experience in representing landlords, we’re ready to offer a consultation concerning your rights. Please call us at 443-535-9715 or fill out our contact form if you have any questions about this topic.