Maryland Landlord-Tenant Law
What happens if you’re a tenant in Bethesda and your landlord hasn’t replied to your third request to repair the broken thermostat in your apartment? What should you do if you’re a landlord in Hunt Valley with a tenant who hasn’t been making rent payments after breaking their lease? These and other lease-specific issues are governed by Maryland’s landlord-tenant laws, so should you file a lawsuit?
Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you should typically be able to deal with legal issues without going to court. Some landlord-tenant disputes will leave you with no other option. Both parties need to know the basics of renting out a place, how to collect or pay security deposits, about fair housing laws, etc. This overview of key Maryland landlord-tenant laws will help guide you.
The lease agreement is the foundation of the landlord-tenant relationship. It is a legally binding contract detailing the responsibilities both the landlord and the tenant promise to uphold. In addition to specifics like amenities, renovations and other apartment features, the lease includes legal details like:
- The security deposit amount and what it covers.
- The rent rate and payment schedule.
- Grounds for lease termination and eviction.
- The length of the leasing term (weeks, months or years).
- Repair policy and procedures.
- Roommate and guest policies.
Tenant’s Right to Escrow Rent
If a landlord neglects their duty to repair and maintain the utilities, appliances and infrastructure of the rental property to a materially hazardous extent, the tenant may not simply withhold or deduct repair charges from their rent payments. A tenant is legally obligated to making their rent payments on time and in full. However, a landlord may be influenced to fulfill their obligations if the tenant makes their rent payments to an escrow account.
First, the tenant must provide written notification to the landlord of the hazardous damage in need of attention. The landlord must be allowed a maximum of 30 days to make the repairs before the tenant may petition the court to pay rent into an escrow account for the landlord’s noncompliance.
If the court grants the petition, the tenant may make their rent payments into the escrow account, where the money will be held and only distributed after the landlord remedies the situation. Tenants should not attempt to withhold rent without a court order as the landlord may legally evict them for nonpayment.
Maryland landlords usually charge new tenants a security deposit alongside their first month’s rent. The security deposit often amounts to one month’s rent and may not exceed two months’ rent by law. Landlords may use the deposit to pay for unpaid rent, repairs to property damages beyond normal wear and tear and other damages from a breach of the lease agreement.
The deposit must be placed in an interest-bearing bank account by the landlord within 30 days of receiving it. Within 45 days after the end of the tenancy, the landlord must deliver to the tenant:
- The remaining balance of the deposit after any deductions.
- Any interest the deposit accrued (for leases that lasted longer than six months).
- A written notice itemizing all of the deductions made, including descriptions and their dollar amounts.
Anti-Discrimination in Housing
Maryland prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on characteristics that are protected by the state’s housing discrimination laws. Specific actions like offering different qualities of maintenance or repair services may be considered discriminatory if the landlord does these things because of a tenant’s:
- Sexual orientation
- Familial status
- Gender identity
- National origin
Getting Legal Help from a Maryland Attorney
While many landlord-tenant conflicts can be resolved without going to court, the laws involved in these conflicts are complex. The Maryland Attorney General published a landlord-tenant guide that contains tips on avoiding and resolving disputes. If you find you are in need of legal counsel or advice, you should consider hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer to represent your interests.