For decades, Baltimore City has required multi-family dwellings and rooming houses to have a license to operate from the Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD). Effective August 1, 2018, Baltimore City expanded its license law to cover 1- and 2- family rental dwellings. In addition, Baltimore City tied the effectiveness of a license with the collection of rent. Beginning on January 1, 2019, landlords must have a license to operate their premises or else lose their right to collect rent.
Read the law: Baltimore City Code, Article 13, Subtitles 4 and 5
Applicability and License Requirements
The license law covers multi-family dwellings, rooming houses, and non-owner-occupied 1- and 2- family dwellings units. The law does NOT apply to:
- owner-occupied properties that are suited for 1 or 2 families; or
- properties owned and operated by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.
A landlord may obtain a license from DHCD if the landlord:
- registers all dwelling units and rooms as required by Article 13, subtitle 4 of the Baltimore City Code;
- pays all registration fees (including any related interest and late fees);
- passes an inspection by a third-party home inspector;
- is in compliance with all Federal, State, and City lead paint laws and regulations;
- for premises that include a hotel or motel subject to article 15 of the Baltimore City Code, complies with the training, certification, and posting requirements of Article 15, Subtitle 10 of the code; and
- is not subject to a violation notice or order that:
- has been issued under the City’s Building, Fire, and Related Codes Article; and
- Notwithstanding the passage of more than 90 days since its issuance, has not been abated before the license issuance or renewal.
Read the law: Baltimore City Code, Article 13 § 5-6
Prohibitions on Rent Collection
Unless otherwise exempted, landlords cannot:
- Rent or offer to rent to another all or any part of any dwelling without a currently effective license; OR
- Charge, accept, retain, or seek to collect rent or other compensation from a tenant for the occupancy of all or any part of a dwelling unless the landlord was licensed at both the time of offering to provide and the time of actually providing the dwelling.
In other words, the landlord must have a license to lease a place to a tenant as well as when the landlord demands payment of rent under that lease. This does not apply to housing owned and operated by DHCD or owner-occupied property that are suited for 1 or 2 families.
Read the law: Baltimore City Code, Article 13 § 5-4
Effect on Failure To Pay Rent Cases
Landlords must affirmatively plead and demonstrate to the court that the landlord has a currently effective license to succeed in a Failure To Pay Rent action. Landlords must indicate the license number in the Failure To Pay Rent Complaint.
If a tenant suspects the landlord does not have a license, then contact DHCD for certification to confirm whether there is a license. Tenants may offer the certification as proof as to whether the landlord has a license and if the landlord has the right to collect rent.
Verification - Visit the DHCD website to verify whether a landlords has a license for their dwelling. For additional information, questions or concerns, contact the Property Registration and Licensing Office by phone 410-396-3575. The Property Registration and Licensing Office also offers certifications of licensing status and may receive reports of unlicensed or unlicensed properties.
If you violate the license law, you may receive an environmental citation among any other civil and criminal enforcement actions. Any person who violates any provision of the licensing law or any rule, regulation, or order adopted or issued under the law may be guilty of a misdemeanor and, on conviction, subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 for each offense.
Read the law: Baltimore City Code, Article 13 § 5-26