Termination and Modification of Tenancy
In nearly all cases, written notice is required for a landlord or a tenant to terminate a tenancy, even month-to-month oral tenancies. Usually, the lease will specify the notice that is required. The periods of notice listed below are the minimum periods required by law and the tenant may not waive his right to receive the prescribed minimum. However, either landlord or tenant, or both, may agree to give a longer notice period than that required by law except that a written lease may not require that the notice period given by the tenant is longer than the notice period given by the landlord.
NOTE: The day of delivery is not counted as part of the notice time. If the notice is sent by mail, it should be mailed early enough to be delivered in time; the courts generally presume delivery 3 days after mailing.
The length of notice from landlord to tenant to terminate the tenancy as required by state law is as follows:
- In the case of weekly tenancies, notice must be given in writing at least one week before the end of week when tenant is to leave;
- In the case of tenancies by the month, notice must be given in writing at least one month before the end of month when tenant is to leave;
- In the case of tenancies from year to year, including tobacco farm tenancies, notice in writing must be given at least three months before the end of the current year of the tenancy. (All other farm tenancies require six months’ notice before the end of the lease year.)
- In tenancies for a definite term (no provision for renewal), notice in writing must be given at least one month before the end of the term;
- In tenancies at will (no fixed term), one month’s notice must be given in writing.
The notice periods listed above are the minimum periods required by law if the landlord is to be eligible to seek assistance from the court in evicting a tenant who does not comply with the notice to leave (a tenant "holding over"). Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Prop. §§ 8-208(d)(5), 8-501, 8-402
If improvements on property rented for a term of less than seven years become uninhabitable because of fire or unavoidable accident, the tenancy terminates, and all liability for rent stops starting on the day of fire or unavoidable accident. Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Prop. §8-112
In month-to-month or week-to-week tenancies where there is no written lease and no code requirement, state or local, relating to notice from tenant to landlord, the common law requirement is that the length of notice must be equal to the base period of the tenancy, such as one week or one month. The Maryland Code is silent on this issue, and the few reported cases do not give clear guidance. If there is any question at all about the actual term of the tenancy, tenant should give notice for the longer period of time.
The notice should be in writing. In the following instances, landlord does not need to give tenant the written termination notice, provided landlord can prove the oral notice from the tenant "by competent testimony"
- A tenancy from year to year, tenant gave to landlord or his representative at least 3 months' oral termination notice before the end of the year (in all farm tenancies, the notice from tenant must have been 6 months), or
- In all other cases, tenant gave to landlord or his representative an oral termination notice at least one month before the end of the lease.
The day of delivery is not counted as part of the notice time. Notices should always be given with time to spare, because being one day late can invalidate the notice. The notice may be hand delivered or sent by mail early enough to be delivered in time. The courts generally presume delivery three days after mailing.
A landlord may give a written 30 day breach of lease notice which states the alleged cause, anytime during the tenancy. In Baltimore City the notice must be given before the end of the week or month that the landlord wants the tenant to leave. Outside of Baltimore City, the landlord can give an immediate written 30 day breach notice. The tenant, of course can contest the notice.
Termination of Tenancy for Fire or Unavoidable Accident
When premises rented for a term of 7 years or less become uninhabitable because of fire or an unavoidable accident, the tenancy ends and the tenant has no further responsibility for payment of rent. (If the tenant's fault or negligence caused or contributed to the fire or other cause of destruction, he may be liable for damages.)
A lease provision that requires the tenant to return the leased premises in good repair at the end of the lease term does not require the tenant to build a new building or pay for a building that was destroyed, unless the tenant's negligence or other fault contributed to the destruction. Read the Law: MD Code, Real Prop. §§ 8-112 & 8-113
Termination of Tenancy by Tenant
Where tenant has a written lease with termination provisions, the tenant must give notice of intent to vacate as required by the lease. A written lease may not require that the notice period given by the tenant is longer than the notice period given by the landlord Read the Law: MD Code, Real Prop. § 8-501
In a tenancy for a certain term the common law rule is that no notice is necessary to terminate the tenancy at the expiration of the term fixed in the lease. See Smith v. Pritchett, 168 Md. 347, 178 A. 113, 115 (1935). Be sure to check the property laws in the city or county where the property is because local law can require notice from tenant to landlord. Also keep in mind, a written lease agreement can still include notice provisions.
In periodic tenancies, such as month-to-month or week-to-week, where there is no written lease and no local law relating to notice from tenant to landlord, the common law requirement is that notice must be given and that the length of notice must be equal to the period of the tenancy, such as 1 week or 1 month See Hyder v. Montgomery County, 160 Md.App. 482, 864 A.2d 279 (2004).
Notice from Victim of Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault to Terminate Lease
A tenant who is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault may terminate his future liability under a residential lease if he:
- Is a victim of domestic violence and has a protective order, or a is a victim of sexual assault and has a protective or peace order; and
- Gives the landlord 30 days’ written notice either hand-delivered or by first-class mail prior to ending the lease, along with a copy of the court order.
The tenant must pay rent for 30 days after giving notice.
The termination of a tenant’s future liability under a residential lease does not terminate or in any other way impact the future liability of a tenant who is the respondent in the action that results in:
- A protective order issued for the benefit of the victim tenant or victim legal occupant; or
- A peace order issued for the benefit of the victim tenant or victim legal occupant for which the underlying act was sexual assault.
Limitation of Liability for Tenants with Certain Medical Conditions
A tenant who vacates leased premises before the end of his lease term due to a medical condition will not be liable for more than 2 months’ rent after the date on which he vacates the leased premises (Sections 8-212.2 (b) and (c)).
To qualify for the limitation of liability, the tenant must provide to the landlord before the tenant vacates the leased premises:
- A written certification* from a physician regarding an individual who is a named party in, or an authorized occupant under the terms of, the lease that states in substantially the following form (Section 8-212.2(c)(1)):
"I, (name of physician), hereby certify that my patient, (name of patient), is no longer able to live at his or her leased premises, (address of leased premises), because the patient has a medical condition that: (1) Substantially restricts the physical mobility of the patient within, or from entering and exiting, the leased premises; or (2) Requires the patient to move to a home, facility, or institution to obtain a higher level of care than can be provided at the leased premises.
I certify further that the expected duration of the patient's medical condition will continue beyond the termination date of the patient's lease, which the patient states is (termination date of lease)."
- A written notice of the termination of the lease stating the date by when the tenant will vacate the leased premises.
NOTE: This limitation of liability law does not apply to a tenant under a residential lease that contains a liquidated damages clause or early termination clause that requires written notice to vacate of 1 month or less and imposes liability for rent less than or equal to 2 months' rent after the date on which the tenant vacates the leased premises (Section 8-212.2 (a)). Read the Law: MD Code § 8-212.2
Termination of Tenancy by Landlord
The periods of notice listed below are the minimum periods required by law and the tenant may not waive his right to receive the prescribed minimum. Read the Law: MD Code, Real Prop. § 8-208
Notice from Landlord to Tenant to Terminate Tenancy
The length of notice from landlord to tenant to terminate the tenancy as required by state law is as follows:
- In tenancies for a definite term (no provision for renewal), termination notice in writing must be given at least 1 month before the end of the term.
- In tenancies at will (no fixed term), 1 month’s notice of termination must be given in writing.
NOTE: The following notice provisions do not apply in Baltimore City and there are exceptions in Montgomery County.
- In the case of weekly tenancies, notice must be given in writing at least 1 week before the end of week when tenant is to leave.
- In the case of tenancies by the month, notice must be given in writing at least 1 month before the end of month when tenant is to leave.
- In the case of tenancies from year-to-year, including tobacco farm tenancies, notice in writing must be given at least 3 months before the end of the current year of the tenancy. (All other farm tenancies require 6 months’ notice before the end of the lease year.).
Read the Law: MD Code, Real Prop. § 8-402
Notice from Landlord to Tenant to Terminate Tenancy Due to Breach of Lease
A landlord may give a written 30-day breach of lease and intent to terminate tenancy notice that states the alleged violation of the lease at any time during the tenancy. The landlord can give this written 30-day breach notice immediately upon discovery of the breach. NOTE: This provision is slightly different in Baltimore City. Read the Law: MD Code, Real Prop. § 8-402
Death of Landlord or Tenant
The general rule is that in the absence of a contrary lease provision, the death of tenant or landlord does not terminate the lease and does not terminate responsibilities under the lease. Thus at the death of the landlord, the tenant continues in the same relationship to the landlord's successor. (Corpus Juris 2nd, Landlord and Tenant, Sec. 22d) If the tenant dies, the estate of the tenant is liable for rent. Read the law: MD Code, Real Prop. § 8-328
When law allows a landlord to bring an action for summary ejectment against a tenant under lease who has died without a will and without next of kin. Read the Law: MD Code Real Prop. §8-401
A lease, either written or oral, is a contract which gives rise to the relationship of landlord and tenant. The law of contracts provides that the terms of a contract may not be modified by one party without the assent of the other party; and an agreement to modify a contract must be supported by consideration (something of value).
Therefore, during the term of a lease, its provisions may not be unilaterally changed by the landlord (for example, by increasing the rent, or requiring tenant to pay for water or other utilities) unless tenant agrees and receives for his agreement something that he was not already entitled to.
If the landlord wishes to increase the rent or change other conditions of the tenancy, he must wait until expiration of the existing lease, and negotiate a new lease with the new conditions.
The notice of a rent increase is similar to a notice to terminate the existing lease, and must comply with the laws relating to the notice required to terminate a tenancy.
A departing tenant should close the windows, lock the doors, leave the dwelling in reasonably clean condition (typically, swept with a broom), and return the keys to the landlord.