FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

MARYLAND LANDLORD/TENANT EVICTIONS




 
DO I REALLY NEED AN ATTORNEY?

Landlords and management companies usually sail through each month with no problems whatsoever with renters.  However, when problems arise, a renter can be a landlord's or management company's worst nightmare.

Landlords and management companies should always consult with an attorney when:

  •  A tenant contests the grounds for eviction
  • A tenant asserts rent escrow options for disrepair and safety claims
  • The Landlord is notified that a tenant has filed bankruptcy.
  • A tenant complains of or sues for illness or injury alleged to have been caused by conditions at the leased property.
  • A tenant sues for or alleges that a security deposit is wrongfully withheld.

Consulting with an attorney from the outset when faced with these situations can save countless hours of aggravation, and in the end, spare and limit the landlord’s and management company’s exposure to costly lawsuits and preventable liability. 

MY TENANT SAID THEIR RENT PAYMENT WILL BE LATE.  SHOULD I SUE OR EVICT?
   
Many large scale apartment complexes automatically file for eviction if rent is not paid by on or around the 5th of each month.  The costs are passed through to the delinquent tenant if and as permitted by the tenant's lease and applicable law. 

Failing to file could result in your tenant making you last on the payment list every month.  You want to send the message that if the tenant has the money to pay, then the rent payment should be their priority.  If the tenant does not have the money to pay, then paying two or more months will not be any easier than paying the one month that is past due.  In short, it's best to nip the rent problem in the bud before it becomes a catastrophe.  We have found that courts are less sensitive to landlords who allow rent and fees to build for long periods without taking legal action. 


MY TENANT PAID THEIR RENT AFTER THE COURT DATE.  CAN I STILL EVICT?

In many instances, the tenant has until the sheriff executes the eviction to pay the rent. If rent is paid prior to execution of the eviction, then the eviction cannot occur.  That said, there is an exception when the landlord has obtained prior judgments for possession against the tenant. The number of prior judgments for possession and the time period during which the judgments must have occurred vary. Seek legal assistance to determine the applicable law for your jurisdiction.

WHAT IS THE EVICTION PROCESS FOR FAILURE TO PAY RENT?
Unless your lease states something different, you can usually file for eviction immediately after rent becomes past due.  The process involves the following steps.
  1. Prepare and file a complaint for repossession in landlord/tenant court.  A trial date will be scheduled for a date within approximately 2-3 weeks.
  2. If the past due rent is not paid on or before the trial date, a judgment for possession will likely be granted.  This is a determination that the rent is not paid, but it is not a determination that you are owed the money.  If the tenant has a defense for not paying the rent or alleges that the amount claimed has been paid, then the case may be continued to allow the parties time to work out the issues.  See below for information on collecting money.
  3. On the fifth day after the judgment for possession is granted, the eviction process can be commenced by filing for a Warrant of Restitution.  This orders the sheriff to execute the eviction.
  4. The owner/landlord is responsible for providing sufficient labor to execute the eviction.  The number of people and cost vary based on the size of the unit/house.
  5. The entire process takes 45-90 days depending on the jurisdiction, the sheriff's case loads, and weather conditions.

THE LANDLORD/TENANT COURT RULED IN MY FAVOR. HOW DO DO I COLLECT THE MONEY?

The court order that determines that the money is owed is called a money judgment.  A money judgment can be granted in landlord/tenant court if applicable service of process rules are followed and the judge is satisfied that the tenant does not have a defense to payment and that you are owed the money.  While Maryland law allows the court to award a money judgment if proper service is obtained, such award is not mandatory.   If a money judgment is granted in landlord/tenant court, it must be recorded in the District Court civil division before enforcement can commence.   If a money judgment is not granted, then a separate action must be filed in District Court or Circuit Court, depending on the amount owed.  A money judgment allows the landlord to garnish wages and bank accounts for the claimed amount, subject to statutory limitations on the amount that can be garnished.

CAN I EVICT A TENANT WHO IS PAYING RENT ON TIME.

If proper notice and/or an opportunity to cure have been delivered to the tenant, a tenant may be evicted if they fail to leave the property after the lease has expired, of if they have committed a material breach of the lease.

CAN I REQUIRE MY TENANT TO PAY ATTORNEY FEES?

If your tenant agreed to pay attorney fees in the lease, then reasonable fees may be awarded by the court.  Some jurisdictions place additional restrictions on collection of attorney fees, so the local laws of your jurisdiction should be consulted.

IF MY TENANT IS IN BANKRUPTCY, CAN I STILL EVICT?
If a tenant is delinquent in rent payments and files for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy code allows the tenant an opportunity to become current, but the landlord is not expected to allow the tenant to live rent free. Most important, all collection activity must cease, and serious penalties can be imposed for violations.  The bankruptcy code has very specific requirements for enforcing the tenant's rent obligations, and certain landlord rights can be lost if they are not timely and properly asserted.  The bankruptcy code or an attorney should be consulted for the specifics of your case. 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Click here for more Maryland landlord resources.

MY PROPERTY IS IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.  CAN YOU HELP?


Yes.  Laws and procedures for the District of Columbia are totally different.  Contact us at 301-825-5655 to discuss your needs. 
DISCLAIMER
Nothing on this website should be relied upon as legal advice, and it does not take the place of consulting with an attorney.  We must discuss the facts of your particular situation and agree in writing to represent you before providing binding advice.