Overview of Maryland Law About Rental Housing
Topics on this page and related articles:
- What is a lease?
- Creating the lease agreement
- Required property conditions
- At the beginning of the lease
- Issues during the lease
- Ending a lease
- Suing for Money
- Changes in Property Ownership and other unusual situations
What is a lease?
A “residential lease” is an oral or written contract between a landlord and a renter, giving the renter the right to live in a house or apartment. This article briefly outlines several common concepts having to do with residential leases and the duties of landlords and renters.
The landlord can also be known as the “lessor,” and the renter can also be known as the “tenant” or “lessee.”
Creating the lease agreement
To be enforceable in Maryland, a residential lease must meet certain requirements. For example, Maryland law limits late fees, provides notice requirements, and protects renters from many lease provisions, including confessed judgments, waivers of the right to a jury trial, and certain penalties. Minors are held to different standards in contracts generally.
Maryland law gives certain duties and rights to renters and to landlords.
Required property conditions
The state of Maryland sets certain requirements for property conditions, and local jurisdictions (counties and cities) may create other, stricter requirements.
Related articles: Property Conditions and Rent
At the beginning of the lease
Landlords must allow renters to move in on the agreed date. They must also provide renters with a “habitable” property. This includes providing certain basic utilities, as well as not unreasonably bothering the renter, or allowing others to bother the renter. These duties are part of the “covenant of quiet enjoyment.” If the landlord breaks the covenant of quiet enjoyment, it is called a “constructive eviction.”
Landlords may charge a security deposit, which they hold for renters to guarantee that renters fulfill their end of the agreement. There are many rules about how landlords have to treat this money.
Issues during the lease
- When either party does not fulfill their end of the lease agreement, they are “breaching the lease.”
- Landlords must give renters notice and a certain amount of time to fulfill their obligations under the lease, before seeking to evict the renter. The amount of notice depends on the situation.
- Landlords may not seriously interfere with renters’ ability to use and enjoy the property.
- Landlords have a duty to provide renters with receipts for rent payments if the renter either pays with cash, or asks for a receipt.
- If landlords are not meeting their obligations, renters may ask the court to allow them to pay their rent into escrow.
- Landlords may not evict or threaten to evict renters for making a good faith complaint, suing the landlord, or getting involved with a renters’ organization.
Related articles: Breach of the Lease, Quiet Enjoyment and Constructive Eviction, Landlord Responsibilities, Ordinary Wear and Tear, Rest Escrow: When the Landlord Fails to Make Repairs, Retaliatory Evictions
Ending a lease
- Renters have a duty to pay their rent. If they do not, landlords can file in court to evict the renters and sue for the rent owed.
- Renters have the duty to return possession of the property at the time agreed on. When a renter stays in possession past the agreed date, this is called “Holding Over.”
- Renters have the duty to return the property in the same condition they got it in, except for ordinary wear and tear.
Suing for money
When landlords evict renters and sue for lost rent, they must try to rent the property again, in order to reduce their losses. This is called “mitigation of damages.”
Changes in Property Ownership and other unusual situations
- If a landlord or a renter dies, the lease is still in effect.
- If the landlord sells the property, the buyer has to honor any existing leases.
- In a mortgage foreclosure, the renter’s rights depend on whether the lease came before the mortgage. If the lease came first, it continues. If the mortgage came first, the renter is entitled to certain notices.
- If the property is sold at tax sale, the lease terminates.
- If the property is converted to condominiums, the renter has certain rights.