When Can a Landlord Evict a Tenant?

Although most landlords would agree that it’s far better to have a long-lasting, profitable relationship with a steady tenant, there may come a time when evicting a tenant is the most tenable option for your property, security, and profitability. But evicting a tenant is not as simple as changing the locks and putting furniture on the curb. As with most dealings between landlords and tenants, there are very specific laws governing evictions.

Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent

In Maryland, in order for a landlord to evict a tenant before the tenancy has expired (meaning before the lease or rental agreement is up), he must have a legal cause to do so. The most common legal reason is failure to pay rent—and when that is the case, the landlord does not have to give the tenant notice before beginning the eviction process. The landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant as soon as the rent is late, filing a complaint for Failure to Pay Rent in the district court in the county where the rental property is located. The complaint must state the amount of rent that is due. The tenant, in many cases, will first learn about the eviction proceedings when he receives a summons from the district court, listing a date and time for a hearing before a judge. But even when the legal process has started, the tenant can stop the eviction by paying the rent that’s due, along with any late fees, by the date that the court has set for the hearing. As long as the tenant pays in full before the hearing, the Complaint will be dismissed. If, however, the tenant does not pay and the landlord prevails, the tenant has four days to pay the amount awarded by the Court in order to stop the next step in the eviction process.  If the tenant does not pay, the landlord may file a Warrant of Restitution, asking that the Court issue a warrant allowing law enforcement officials to remove the tenant and his belongings from the property. Even up until the day of the eviction, the tenant may stop the eviction, by paying the full amount owed with certified funds, unless the landlord has received at least three other failure to pay rent judgments against the tenant in the past year. In this case, after the fourth failure to pay rent, the tenant may not redeem the property.

Other Eviction with Cause

If the landlord is evicting the tenant for other reasons, such as the tenant posing a threat to others on the property, the landlord must file a “notice to cure,” giving the tenant a set amount of time to correct the situation before eviction proceedings start. The landlord must serve the tenant with one of the following:
  • 30-Day Notice to Cure: If the tenant violates the lease or rental agreement in some way, but does not pose a threat to the property or others on the property, the landlord files this notice, which gives the tenant 30 days to correct the violation before the landlord files an official eviction lawsuit.
  • 14-Day Notice to Cure: If the tenant (or somebody who is on the property with the tenant’s permission) poses a threat to the property or people on the property, the landlord can file this notice, giving the tenant just two weeks to correct the behavior which is in violation of the lease or rental agreement. If the tenant does not do so within 14 days, the landlord will file an eviction lawsuit.

Eviction Without Cause

If the tenant has done nothing wrong and has not violated the terms of the lease or rental agreement, the landlord cannot expect the tenant to vacate the property while the lease or rental agreement is in effect. When the lease or agreement expires, however, the landlord has the right to not renew it for any reason. In most jurisdictions in Maryland, month-to-month tenants must be given one month’s notice. With a fixed-term lease, the landlord is not legally required to give the tenant any notice to move at all, with the expectation that the tenant will move when the lease or rental agreement expires. However, if the tenant does not vacate at the end of the Lease, the landlord must serve appropriate notice, prior to filing an eviction action, therefore, it is advisable to give notice to vacate prior to the end of the Lease term. Seeking guidance from an experienced landlord and tenant attorney in Maryland can provide valuable insights into the legal nuances of such situations. There is a movement to change those rules for landlords in some jurisdictions in Maryland. A bill was introduced in February 2018 by the Montgomery County legislative delegation “for the purpose of prohibiting a landlord from evicting a tenant from leased premises in Montgomery County in the absence of just cause under certain circumstances.” The bill further defined that the definition of “’evict’ includes the refusal by a landlord to renew a residential lease on substantially similar terms.” Although the bill died in the 2018 session, lawmakers and community leaders are still studying the issue, and landlords will want to keep an eye on the discussion for future developments. If you’ve had issues with tenants and need legal assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us. Lusk Law, LLC, represents landlords and property owners, including handling compliance with Maryland landlord-tenant regulations and laws. If you’re a landlord, get the legal advice you need to successfully operate your business. Contact Lusk Law, LLC, to set up a consultation.