Rental Housing Protection for Domestic Violence Victims

Getting Out of Your Lease

You can end your lease early if you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault who needs to move for your safety if:

  1. you are a victim of domestic violence and you have a protective order, or you are a victim of sexual assault and you have a peace order; and
  2. you give your landlord 30 days written notice prior to ending your lease and a copy of your court order.

You must pay rent for 30 days after giving your landlord written notice and a copy of the final protective order or peace order. Read the Law: MD Code, Real Prop. § 8-5A-02

Changing Your Locks

Your landlord is required to change your locks if:

  1. you are a victim of domestic violence and you have a final protective order, or you are a victim of sexual assault and you have a peace order; and
  2. you ask your landlord, in writing, to change your locks and include a copy of your order.

Your landlord must change the locks by the end of the next business day.

Your landlord may charge a reasonable fee for changing the locks. You must pay the fee within 45 days.

If you do not pay the fee, the landlord can add the amount to your rent or withhold it from your security deposit.

If your landlord does not change the locks by the end of the next business day, you can hire a certified locksmith to change the locks. Give your landlord a copy of the new key by the end of the next business day. Read the Law: MD Code, Real Prop. § 8-5A-06 

Eviction Defense

If your landlord tries to evict you because of an incident of domestic violence or sexual assault:

  1. you should go to court and tell the judge what happened; and
  2. if you have a final protective order or peace order, bring it with you to court to give the judge.

If you do not have a final protective order or peace order:

  1. you should tell the judge that you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault; and
  2. bring any proof of the domestic violence or sexual assault with you to court, such as a police report, doctor’s report, pictures, etc.

 The law requires the judge to consider any evidence about domestic violence or sexual assault in eviction cases.

Who is Protected Under this Law

An amendment to this law went into effect October 1, 2011 clarifying who may use the law. A person cannot use this law to break a lease when he/she is the person against whom a final protective or peace order has been brought.  The law only allows the victim of domestic abuse or sexual assault to break a lease.

Source: 

Women's Law Center, updated by Laure Ruth
Is this legal advice?

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