Maryland Eviction Laws: 2024 Step by Step Process & Costs

With the expiration of the pandemic-era eviction moratoriums long passed and rental costs skyrocketing, Maryland eviction rates are on the rise.

For landlords and property managers, that can mean dealing with lengthy —and costly—legal processes. But with an understanding of how evictions work in Maryland, you’ll be able to navigate these situations more effectively.

Here’s what you need to know about Maryland eviction laws.

What Are The Eviction Laws In Maryland?

Illegal evictions are actions taken by a landlord or property manager to remove a tenant from a rental property without involving the court system.

Maryland eviction laws govern how a landlord must evict a tenant, and disregarding these laws could mean paying the tenant damages plus attorney’s fees.

Reasons for Eviction in Maryland

In Maryland, landlords can legally evict tenants for a handful of reasons, including:

Failure to Pay Rent

The most common reason for eviction in Maryland is when a tenant fails to pay rent on time and in full. If a tenant misses even a single rental payment or pays only part of the amount owed, the landlord can start the eviction process. The landlord does not need to allow any grace period for late rent under Maryland law.

Breach of Lease Terms  

If a tenant violates any provision in the lease agreement, the landlord may have grounds to evict. Common lease violations that could prompt eviction include having unauthorized occupants, pets, or guests, damaging the unit, or using the property for prohibited business activities.  

Illegal Activity on the Property

Landlords in Maryland can quickly evict if they discover tenants are using the rental unit for unlawful purposes. This includes criminal activities like selling drugs, prostitution, illegal gambling, and more.

Staying Past Lease Expiration 

When a lease term ends, tenants are required to vacate the property unless both parties agree to continue renting. If the tenant holds over past the end of a lease without the landlord's permission, they may be subject to eviction even if rent is paid on time. The landlord is not obligated to renew an expired lease.

Maryland Eviction Laws Quick Reference Table

Problem Maryland Eviction Law Says… Which Eviction Notice Templates To Use
Tenant has not paid rent. You may file an eviction suit after giving the tenant 10 days’ written notice of your intent to do so unless they pay.
MD. Real Property Code § 8-401 (2022)
10-Day Notice to Quit
Tenant has violated terms of the lease. You may file an eviction suit after giving the tenant a 30-day notice of your intent to do so unless they pay.
MD. Real Property Code § 8-402.1 (2022)
30-Day Notice To Quit
Landlord wants to regain control of the property at the end of the lease, or there is no lease. You may evict after giving the tenant 60- or 90-days’ notice.
MD. Real Property Code § 8-402 (2022)
Weekly and monthly tenants: 60-Day Lease Termination
Year-to-year tenants: 90-day Lease Termination
Tenant is an imminent danger to themselves, others, or the property. You may file an eviction suit after giving the tenant 14 days’ notice to vacate. You’re not required to give them a chance to remedy the situation.
MD. Real Property Code § 8-402.1 (2022)
14-Day Notice to Quit (Imminent Danger)

Eviction Notices in Maryland

In Maryland, landlords must provide tenants with proper written notice before starting the eviction process. The notice must contain certain information and be served to the tenant in an acceptable manner. Tenants then have a specified period of time to respond to the notice before the landlord can proceed with filing an eviction lawsuit.

Contents of a Valid Eviction Notice

For the eviction notice to be valid in Maryland, it must:

  • Be in writing 
  • State the name of the landlord or the landlord's agent/attorney
  • Provide the address of the rental property 
  • List the amount of rent owed if evicting for nonpayment
  • Provide the reason for the eviction
  • State the date by which the tenant must vacate the property or respond to the notice

The notice should specifically say that the tenant must vacate the property if they do not pay the rent or correct the lease violation outlined in the notice.

Proper Service of the Notice

To properly serve an eviction notice in Maryland, the landlord can:

  • Hand deliver it directly to the tenant
  • Leave it with another resident of suitable age at the rental property
  • Post it on the unit's front door and mail a copy by first-class mail
  • Mail it to the tenant by certified and first-class mail

If the tenant cannot be served in person or by posting, the landlord can get permission from the court to serve the notice in alternative ways, such as by newspaper publication.

Tenant Response Timelines 

Once served with a notice to vacate for nonpayment of rent, the tenant has 10 days to either pay the full amount owed or vacate the unit. 

For other lease violations, the notice must give the tenant 30 days to correct the issue or move out. 

If the tenant does not comply within the required timeframe, the landlord can then proceed with filing for eviction through the courts.

How To Evict Someone In Maryland

Filing for Eviction in Maryland

For a landlord to legally evict a tenant in Maryland, they must file an eviction complaint in the local District Court. This starts a formal legal proceeding where the tenant is summoned to appear before a judge.

Serving the Eviction Summons and Complaint

After filing the eviction complaint with the court, the landlord must have the court papers served on the tenant. This means delivering copies of the Summons for Eviction and the Complaint. 

In Maryland, the eviction papers can be served in a few different ways:

  • Handing it directly to the tenant
  • Leaving it with a resident of suitable age at the rental unit  
  • Posting it on the rental unit if no one is home
  • Mailing it to the tenant via first class and certified mail 

The process server must fill out a document called a Proof of Service showing how the papers were served. This gets filed with the court as evidence.

How Tenants Should Respond 

Once served with the court papers, the tenant becomes the defendant in the eviction lawsuit. They have a few options:

Do nothing

This usually results in the landlord getting a default judgment.

Try to negotiate

The tenant can try to work out a settlement before the court date.

File an answer

The tenant can file a written Answer to the Complaint responding to allegations.

Appear in court

The tenant can show up on the designated court date to defend themselves before the judge.

It's recommended for tenants to seek legal help or advice as soon as they receive eviction papers. An attorney can help navigate the formal legal process.

Rent Court and Eviction Hearings

Maryland has a specialized rent court that handles all residential landlord-tenant disputes, including eviction cases. This court, officially called the "District Court of Maryland - Landlord Tenant Cases," has locations in all counties and Baltimore City. 

The eviction hearing itself is like a mini-trial presided over by a judge. Both the landlord and tenant will have the opportunity to present their case. 

The landlord's attorney will explain why the tenant is being evicted, providing details on things like nonpayment of rent or lease violations. The landlord may bring evidence like ledgers, notices sent, or photographs.

The tenant can defend themselves a few different ways:

Disputing the facts

The tenant can argue the landlord's claims are inaccurate or false. For example, providing proof rent was paid or denying they violated the lease.

Procedural errors

The tenant can claim the landlord did not properly follow the required eviction procedures, like not giving proper notice. 

Affirmative defenses

The tenant can raise legal defenses like breach of the warranty of habitability (unsafe living conditions), landlord retaliation, discrimination, or landlord failure to make repairs.

Mitigating circumstances

The tenant can explain any special situations leading to nonpayment like job loss, illness, or family emergency.

The tenant should gather evidence like receipts, lease agreements, inspection reports, letters, or photographs. Witnesses can also testify at the hearing.

The judge will consider all the evidence and arguments before deciding whether to grant the eviction or not. Both the landlord and tenant will be informed of the outcome right awa

eviction process in Maryland

The Eviction Order and Removal Process

If the landlord wins the eviction case in court, the judge will issue an eviction order, also called a "writ of possession". This order gives the landlord the legal right to remove the tenant from the property. 

The eviction order sets a deadline, usually 4-6 weeks from the court date, for the tenant to vacate the rental unit voluntarily. If the tenant does not move out by the deadline, the landlord can then schedule the eviction with the sheriff's department.

On the scheduled eviction date, the sheriff will arrive to oversee the removal of the tenant and their belongings from the property. The landlord cannot conduct the eviction themselves - it must be carried out by the sheriff per the court order.

The sheriff will provide notice of the eviction date to the tenant. On that day, the tenant will need to have all their possessions removed. The sheriff can allow a small amount of time, such as 15-30 minutes, for the tenant to gather essential items.

If the tenant refuses to leave or interferes with the eviction process, they may face additional legal penalties. The sheriff has the right to forcibly remove the tenant if they will not vacate voluntarily. The landlord can then legally change the locks and take possession of the unit.

Any possessions left behind by the tenant will be set out on the property, moved to storage, or considered abandoned depending on local laws. The landlord is required to safeguard the tenant's belongings for a certain period of time.

The entire eviction process, from notice to removal, typically takes 4-6 weeks in Maryland. Tenants who go through an eviction will have that case on their rental history, which can make it more difficult to find housing in the future.

Retaliatory Evictions in Maryland

Landlords cannot take retaliatory action against tenants who exercise their legal rights. Maryland law prohibits landlords from evicting, increasing rent, decreasing services, or otherwise retaliating against tenants within 6 months of the tenant:

  • Filing an official complaint about housing code violations
  • Joining or organizing a tenant's union 
  • Taking legal action against the landlord for violations of the lease or the law

If a landlord tries to evict a tenant soon after the tenant takes one of these protected actions, the eviction could be considered an illegal retaliation. 

Examples of retaliatory conduct include:

  • Giving the tenant an eviction notice right after the tenant complained about mold or leaks.
  • Raising the rent significantly after the tenant reported safety issues.  
  • Turning off utilities or changing the locks after the tenant joined a tenant advocacy group.

Tenants have legal recourse against retaliation. If a landlord tries to evict within the 6 month period, the tenant can argue to the court that the eviction is in retaliation for exercising their rights. The burden is then on the landlord to show a valid, non-retaliatory reason for the eviction.

Tenants facing retaliation should consult a lawyer to understand their rights and options. Legal aid organizations may be able to provide assistance fighting retaliatory evictions. With evidence of retaliation, tenants may be able to get the eviction dismissed, recover damages, or obtain an injunction to stop the landlord's retaliatory conduct.

Illegal Lockouts and Utility Shutoffs in Maryland

Landlords in Maryland have a legal duty to provide essential utilities and services like water, electricity, heat, and gas to tenants. They cannot legally lock out tenants by changing the locks or shutting off utilities without following the proper eviction process through the courts.

If a landlord engages in an illegal lockout by locking a tenant out of the rental unit or shutting off any essential utility services, the tenant has several remedies:

  • The tenant can call the police. The police will usually make the landlord unlock the door and restore utilities if the tenant can show they live there and pay rent. 
  • The tenant can go to rent court and file an emergency complaint. The judge can order the landlord to immediately restore access and utilities. Fines may also be issued.
  • The tenant can sue the landlord for illegal lockout. This allows the tenant to recover actual damages, attorney fees, and up to 3 months rent or more.
  • The tenant can withhold rent until the lockout ends and utilities are restored.

To get utilities like electricity, gas, or water turned back on after an illegal shutoff, the tenant should contact the utility company directly. The tenant can show their lease and documentation they pay utilities at the unit. The utility company will usually restore service after confirming the tenant has a right to service at that address. Tenants may need to pay a reconnection fee.

Illegal lockouts and utility shutoffs without proper notice deny tenants their legal rights. Tenants have multiple legal remedies to end the lockout and get utilities turned back on quickly during disputes with their landlord.

Rent Payment During Eviction Proceedings

When a landlord begins the eviction process, tenants often wonder if they still need to pay rent during the proceedings. In Maryland, tenants are still responsible for paying the full amount of rent owed under the lease, even during an eviction case. 

The eviction process does not nullify the tenant's obligation to pay rent. Tenants cannot withhold rent as a defense against eviction unless there are severe health and safety violations that make the unit uninhabitable. Even in disputes over maintenance and repairs, rent must still be paid on time.

If a tenant cannot pay the full rent amount due to financial hardship, it is recommended to communicate this with the landlord right away. The tenant can try negotiating a payment plan or partial payment to show a good faith effort. 

Another option for tenants is to pay their full monthly rent into an escrow account with the court, rather than directly to the landlord. This protects the tenant from continued nonpayment claims. The rent money is held by the court until the dispute is resolved. 

To set up a rent escrow account, the tenant will need to file a petition with the district court in the county where the rental unit is located. This is typically done at the same time as the tenant's response to the eviction lawsuit. The court will review the petition and may order that future rent payments be made into the escrow account.

Rent escrow can be a helpful tool for tenants who want to show they are upholding their end of the lease during an eviction dispute. However, setting up the account takes time, so tenants should continue paying rent normally until escrow is approved. With proper rent payment, tenants stand a better chance of defeating nonpayment eviction cases.

Seizure of Tenant's Property

When a tenant is evicted in Maryland, the landlord has the right to seize any personal property left behind on the premises. However, there are rules around how a landlord can dispose of a tenant's possessions:

  • The landlord must provide written notice that they intend to seize any property left behind. This notice should give the tenant a deadline to retrieve their belongings, usually 10-15 days after the notice is issued.
  • After the notice period expires, the landlord can dispose of any remaining items. They cannot simply keep a tenant's property for themselves.
  • If the items are worth more than $700 total, the landlord must have them appraised. They can then sell the property at public auction and apply the funds to any debts owed by the tenant such as back rent or damages. 
  • For property worth less than $700, the landlord can dispose of it as they see fit, but cannot keep any money earned from selling the items.
  • A landlord cannot seize or sell a tenant's personal documents, medical records, photographs, or keepsakes under any circumstances. These must be retained for the tenant to collect.

If a landlord violates these procedures and wrongfully disposes of a tenant's property, the tenant can take legal action to recover the value of their possessions. It is advisable for tenants to remove all their belongings before the eviction date to prevent improper seizure or disposal issues. Abandoned property laws do not allow landlords to arbitrarily confiscate a tenant's personal effects.

Assistance for Tenants Facing Eviction

Tenants going through the eviction process in Maryland often need help understanding their rights and navigating the legal system. Thankfully, there are a number of organizations that provide free assistance and resources for renters facing potential eviction.

Several legal aid organizations in Maryland offer services to help low-income tenants respond to eviction lawsuits and represent themselves in rent court. This can include advice on the eviction notice, help preparing defenses and evidence, and even legal representation at the court hearing. Some organizations to contact include:

  • Maryland Legal Aid - Provides free civil legal services to eligible low-income residents. Their housing lawyers can advise tenants on eviction cases.
  • Public Justice Center - A non-profit legal advocacy group that takes on housing and eviction cases for free. 
  • Homeless Persons Representation Project - Offers pro-bono eviction defense for tenants in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

Government and Community Resources

In addition to legal aid, there are other government and community resources tenants can turn to when facing potential eviction:

  • Renters Protection Task Force - Statewide group that helps connect tenants to legal help and mediation services for evictions.
  • Local social services - County social services agencies sometimes have emergency rental assistance funds that can help pay back rent and stop an eviction.
  • Religious organizations - Many churches and faith groups have charity funds or volunteers who can help negotiate with landlords. 
  • Tenants' rights groups - Local organizations that provide tenant counseling, advocacy, and assist with eviction disputes outside of court.

With proper assistance, tenants going through the eviction process can better understand their rights, defend themselves in court, and possibly avoid eviction altogether. The key is reaching out early after receiving an eviction notice.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to evict a tenant in Maryland?

The eviction process in Maryland can vary but generally takes from about two to four weeks after the landlord files for eviction in court, depending on the specific grounds for eviction and any legal defenses the tenant may raise.

Can you be evicted without a court order in Maryland?

No, in Maryland, tenants cannot be legally evicted without a court order. The landlord must file an eviction lawsuit and obtain a judgment from the court before eviction can occur.

How do I delay an eviction in Maryland?

To delay an eviction in Maryland, a tenant can request a stay of execution from the court, often based on extreme hardship, such as severe weather conditions or serious health issues. Tenants can also challenge the eviction in court on legal grounds, which may prolong the process.

How many months behind on rent before a tenant can be evicted in Maryland?

In Maryland, landlords can initiate eviction proceedings as soon as rent is past due. After giving a tenant a written notice allowing for rent payment within a specific timeframe (typically 5 days for nonpayment of rent), landlords can proceed with filing for eviction.

How much notice does a landlord have to give a tenant to move out in Maryland?

For month-to-month tenancies in Maryland, landlords must provide at least one month's notice before the tenant must vacate. For fixed-term leases, tenants are expected to vacate at the end of the lease term unless specified otherwise by a breach of lease or eviction notice.

What are squatters' rights in Maryland?

In Maryland, squatters can claim rights to a property after residing there continuously and openly, without the permission of the owner, for a period of 20 years. This is known as adverse possession.

What happens after a 10-day eviction notice in Maryland?

After a 10-day eviction notice in Maryland, which typically is issued for lease violations other than non-payment of rent, if the tenant does not remedy the violation or vacate the property within that period, the landlord can proceed to court to file for eviction. If the court rules in favor of the landlord, an eviction order will be issued, and the tenant will be required to leave the property.

Need Help With The Maryland Eviction Process? Eviction Services Are Available

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