A “residential lease” is a contract between a landlord and a renter, giving the renter the right to live in a house or apartment.  (Leases)  This article gives a brief outline of 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 agreement (read much more at Landlord/Tenant)
In order 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.  (Leases) Minors are held to different standards in contracts generally. (When the Tenant is a Minor)

Maryland law gives certain duties and rights to renters and to landlords. 

Required property conditions (read much more at Property Conditions and Rent)

  • The state of Maryland sets certain requirements for property conditions, and local jurisdictions (counties and cities) may create other, stricter requirements. (Leases)

At the beginning of the lease (read much more at Starting a Lease)

  • Landlords have the duty to 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.” (Quiet Enjoyment and 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. (Security Deposits)

Issues that may arise during the lease period (read much more at Property Conditions and Rent)

  • 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. (Breach of the Lease)
  • Landlords may not seriously interfere with renters’ ability to use and enjoy the property.  (Quiet Enjoyment and Constructive Eviction)
  • Landlords have a duty to provide renters with receipts for rent payments if the renter either pays with cash, or asks for a receipt.  (Landlord Responsibilities)
  • If landlords are not meeting their obligations, renters may ask the court to allow them to pay their rent into escrow. (Rest Escrow: When the Landlord Fails to Make Repairs)
  • 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.  (Retaliatory Evictions)

Ending a lease (read much more at 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 can sue for the rent owed. (Failure to Pay Rent)
  • 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.” (Holding Over)
  • Renters have the duty to return the property in the same condition they got it in, except for ordinary wear and tear. (Ordinary Wear and Tear)

Suing for money
When landlords evict renters and sue for lost rent, they have a duty to try to rent the property again, in order to reduce their losses.  This is called “mitigation of damages.”  (Breach of the Lease)

Changes in Property Ownership and other unusual situations (read more at Transfers During a Lease)

The People’s Law Library provides detailed information about many other topics related to residential leases.  Search the site or look at the list of Landlord/Tenant Articles.




PLL, and Marc Baer, Esq., Waldman Grossfeld Appel & Baer, PA

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