A retaliatory eviction, also called a retaliatory action, a tenant does not have to prove that a landlord's prohibited action was solely motivated by retaliation. Below are some examples of landlord conduct prohibited by the law:
It is a retaliatory action for a residential landlord:
- To threaten to evict a tenant;
- To file a court action to evict a tenant;
- To increase a tenant's rent;
- To decrease services provided to a tenant, or
- To terminate a periodic tenancy (e.g. month-to-month lease).
For any of the following reasons:
- Because the tenant or someone acting on the tenant's behalf complains about an alleged violation of lease or law, or a dangerous housing condition;
- Because the tenant or someone acting on the tenant's behalf has sued or participated in a lawsuit against the landlord, or
- Because the tenant has participated in any tenants' organization.
In order to claim that a landlord is taking retaliatory action:
- The tenant must be current on rent due and owing to the landlord at the time of the retaliatory action, unless the tenant has withheld rent in accordance with the lease, under state law, or another comparable local ordinance.
- In addition, the landlord's reason for retaliation must have occurred less than 6 months earlier.
A tenant may respond to her landlord’s retaliatory action in one of 2 ways:
- By raising the retaliation as a defense against the landlord’s court action to evict the tenant, or
- By filing a court claim seeking monetary compensation for damages resulting from the landlord’s retaliatory action.
If a court decides that the landlord committed a prohibited retaliatory action, then that court may order the landlord to pay compensation of an amount of money equivalent to as much as three months of rent, plus reasonable attorney fees and court costs.
Note: In addition to the protections against a landlord’s retaliatory actions that are listed above, Maryland also specifically prohibits retaliatory actions against persons who report lead poisoning. Maryland counties may also have ordinances that provide greater protection against landlord retaliation than the statewide law. A county ordinance prohibiting retaliatory actions applies so long as it provides greater protection than the statewide law.