The lease between the tenant and housing authority must state the procedures to be followed for lease termination. The housing authority cannot terminate a lease except for serious or repeated violations of lease terms or other “good cause”. The housing authority must send the tenant written notice of its intent to terminate the lease. If the basis for lease termination is nonpayment of rent, the notice must be provided 14 days before the housing authority files a civil action for failure to pay rent. If the basis for lease termination is for any other reason, the notice must be sent out at least 30 days before the housing authority files a breach of lease action in district court. Read the Regulation: 24 CFR 966.4
The lease termination notice must state the specific grounds for terminating the tenancy and advise the tenant that he/she may respond. The notice must inform the tenant of his/her right to examine all housing authority documents relevant to the proposed lease termination (including the entire tenant file); that the tenant is entitled to a grievance hearing (where applicable), that the tenant can only be evicted through legal process, that if the tenant does not vacate by the date specified in the notice, the landlord will file an eviction action in district court.
Ask your housing authority for a copy of the grievance procedure so that you can request a grievance hearing in a timely manner.
When the housing authority is legally required to provide the tenant with a right to a grievance hearing, the housing authority may not file a civil action in district court until the tenant’s right to request a grievance hearing has expired and the grievance process has been completed.
If the housing authority is not legally required to provide a grievance hearing, it must include this information in the lease termination notice, advise the tenant of the judicial eviction procedure used by the housing authority, state that the judicial proceeding satisfies due process, and state whether the eviction is for criminal activity or for drug-related activity.
If you live in Baltimore City and the housing authority is not legally required to offer you an informal and formal grievance because your lease is being terminated based upon criminal or drug-related activity, you still have a right to meet to dispute the proposed lease termination.
If housing authority is legally required to offer you the right to an informal and formal grievance hearing, you must submit your request for an informal grievance hearing in writing within the time limits set forth in the grievance procedure. If, after you meet with your housing manager, the housing authority still intends to evict you, you should request a formal grievance hearing in writing.
At both grievance hearings, you have the right to inspect and copy your tenant file, to bring a representative or attorney, to offer witnesses on your behalf, and to cross examine any housing authority witnesses, to have a written decision based upon facts and evidence presented at the hearings.
If the housing authority still intends to proceed with eviction, it must file a civil complaint with the district court. You will be notified of a trial date and you may represent yourself at trial. You have the right to demand that the housing authority reveal the basis of its decision to evict you: the identity of all witnesses and all written evidence it will present at trial. You have the right to contact and be represented by an attorney.
An owner of HUD housing may not refuse or decline to renew a lease. The owner may terminate the lease for an alleged breach of lease. When an owner believes the tenant has committed a breach of lease, the landlord must send the tenant notice in writing that states the following:
- specific reasons why the landlord is terminating the tenancy;
- specify the date on which the lease will terminate;
- advise the tenant that if he/she remains in the unit, the landlord may evict the tenant only by bringing a judicial action in district court; and,
- the tenant has the right to present a defense to the eviction in court.
The lease termination notice must be provided to the tenant at least 30 days before the landlord files an eviction action in district court.
The lease termination notice must be mailed by first class mail and a copy must be either placed under the tenant’s door, taped to the door, or handed to an adult answering the door at the time of service.
When the lease termination notice is for failure to pay rent, the notice must state the how much rent is owed and the date on which this calculation was made.
The notice must also state that the tenant has ten days to meet with the landlord to discuss the lease termination notice. This is an opportunity for the tenant to dispute the notice or to offer to cure the alleged breach of lease. If the tenant fails to request a ten-day meeting, the tenant still has the opportunity to challenge the eviction in a court trial.
The tenant continues to pay the reduced, subsidized rent until he/she vacates or is legally evicted through judicial process.
Section 8 Housing
Section 8 lease terminations are generally governed by Maryland landlord and tenant law. The tenant is required to send his/her section 8 advisor a copy of any lease termination notice. The housing authority will continue to make payments to the landlord under the voucher unless the tenant vacates, is legally evicted through a judicial process, or moves to a new section 8 property under a newly issued voucher. The landlord cannot terminate the tenancy during the initial term of the lease without good cause. The landlord may terminate the tenancy for no reason or refuse to renew the lease at the end of the lease term by giving at least 60 days written notice before the lease term ends.
After sending you notice of an intent to terminate your lease, your landlord must go to court before you can be evicted. Your landlord or housing authority cannot change your locks, cut off the water or electricity, or move your belongings without going to court. If your landlord or housing authority does any of these things, you may file a criminal complaint against him and he/she will be prosecuted by the States Attorney for an illegal lockout. Your landlord or housing authority must wait 30 days after sending you the notice before going to court (or 14 days if you live in public housing and you are being sued for nonpayment of rent); then the landlord must prove that you broke your lease. There are no jury trials in District Court. If the amount of the claim exceeds $15,000, or the tenant's interest in the lease is more than $15,000, contractual attorney's fee excluded, either party may request a jury trial which is transferred to the circuit court. Landlords must request a jury trial in writing when filing court forms; tenants must make their requests in writing prior to the date of the District Court trial. Circuit court procedures may differ.
If you receive a court summons or eviction letter, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. If your landlord or housing authority agrees to let you stay but wants you to sign a written agreement, you should contact an attorney before signing it. You may be eligible for free legal services from the Legal Aid Bureau, a law school clinic, or a "pro bono" project.