Maryland eviction laws vary depending on your location within the state. Despite that, they all follow the same general eviction process:
Every eviction process is different and dependent on the lease/rental agreement signed by the tenant and the landlord. It is always best to exercise meticulous file-keeping to avoid errors that the tenant could exploit.
This article details a summary for landlords to refer to when evicting a tenant. Confirm procedures with your local justice court to make sure the entire process goes as smoothly as possible.
1. Failure to pay rent on time
Rent is usually considered late a day past its due date. A grace period may be available if stated in the lease/rental agreement.
A landlord is not required to give tenants written notice before proceeding with the eviction process for failing to pay rent on time. But if a tenant can pay their overdue rent before they are forcibly evicted, they can stay in the rental property.
2. Violation of the lease/rental agreement
The rental lease agreement has to be upheld by both tenant and landlord for the entire duration of the tenant’s stay. Agreements may vary from tenant to tenant.
If a tenant violates any terms of the lease agreement, the landlord must issue a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
However, if the tenant engages in behavior that is considered dangerous or harmful to anyone within the property, they are given a 14-Day Notice to Quit.
Lease violations may include:
- Damaging rental property
- Conducting illegal activity
- Smoking in non-smoking areas
- Keeping pets in pet-free properties, etc.
- Disturbing the other tenants with loud activity
Landlords are not legally obligated to allow the tenant to resolve the violation before presenting them with the notice to quit.
3. Non-renewal of the lease after the rental period ends
In Maryland, landlords cannot evict tenants or force them to vacate the property without probable cause. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules, they can stay until their rental period ends.
Outlined below is how long of a notice period a landlord should give a tenant, depending on the type of tenancy. These notices include a 7-Day Notice to Quit, a 30-Day Notice to Quit, and a 90-Day Notice to Quit.
If the rental property is located in Baltimore City or Montgomery County, these notice periods are not applicable.
In the case that the tenant is in Montgomery County and has a tenancy that is renewed monthly but is less than a year, they need to receive a 2-Month Notice to Quit.
If the tenant does not vacate the premises after their allotted time, the landlord can continue filing for eviction.
Filing a Complaint
1. How to File a Complaint
The eviction process can only begin after the issuance of the Notice to Vacate. The landlord must have allowed enough time to pass before filing for eviction.
The eviction process is as follows:
- Proceed to the justice court the rental property belongs to
- File a complaint
- Pay the fees
It takes about 5 to 30 days from the issuance of the Notice to Quit, depending on the reason for eviction and the lease agreement.
Serving the Tenant
1. How to Serve a Tenant
The sheriff or constable is tasked with serving the Summons and Complaint to the tenant. There are several methods to accomplish this:
- Personal Service: The sheriff/constable delivers the Summons and Complaint to the tenant in person
- Posting and Mailing: The sheriff/constable leaves a copy of the documents for the tenant. It is placed in a secure and visible position by the entrance of the tenant’s rented property. When using this method, a copy must be mailed via first-class mail.
Giving a copy to the tenant is not required unless the landlord is filing to evict them for failure to pay rent or pay for damages made to the rental property.
Landlords are not allowed to serve the tenant themselves.
2. After Serving the Summons and Complaint
An eviction hearing happens at least 5-15 days after the sheriff/constable was able to serve the documents to the tenant.
If the tenant is being evicted for failing to pay rent, they have to send a formal written reply to the court.
There is no clear indication of when the documents have to be served to the tenant in Maryland.
Below is the outlined length of time for tenants to appeal after being served the documents:
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgement and get a Judgement for Possession
The landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against the tenant. If the tenant does not show up to the hearing, the landlord wins by default.
2. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and replied
In the state of Maryland, a reply from the tenant is not necessary for a court date to be scheduled.
If a tenant disagrees with the Summons and Complaint and wishes to appeal the complaint, they have to file a written answer to the court.
During the hearing, the responsibility of proving the eviction valid falls on the landlord. The landlord needs to support the claim with evidence.
This could include, but is not limited to the following:
- Copy of the deed and lease
- Rent receipts and ledgers
- Bank statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations, correspondence, etc.
The scheduling of the eviction hearing depends on the type of eviction being pursued by the landlord. It is outlined below:
1. After the landlord wins the case
Provided that the tenant does not appeal for reconsideration, a Writ of Restitution is issued no more than 4 days after the judgment is received.
The landlord can request for the Writ of Restitution to be issued on the day the court issues judgment in their favor.
2. Move out process
The Writ of Restitution informs the tenant that they have a maximum of 60 days from the moment it is issued to vacate the premises with their belongings. This does not apply to evictions done because of failure to pay rent.
If the tenant is being evicted due to failure to pay rent, they can get a stay of execution. But only if the judicial officer thinks moving out could be unsafe.
Just because a tenant has 60 days to move out does not mean they can be given that length of time to vacate the property. It will depend on the availability of the sheriff or constable.
If the date they are scheduled to be evicted is on a Sunday or a National Holiday, it has to be rescheduled.
In case the tenant leaves behind any belongings, it is the landlord’s responsibility to get rid of them. If the rental property is located in Baltimore city, then the landlord can dispose of it legally—to the landfill or donating it to charity.
For any other properties not within Baltimore city, landlords are advised to contact the tenant and give them a reasonable timeframe to claim them. After the timeframe has passed, the landlord is allowed to sell or dispose of the tenant’s property.
Even if the landlord wins the case, they are not allowed to engage in illegal eviction methods.
The tenants have a maximum of 60 days upon the issuance of the Writ of Restitution to move out of the property. It is not guaranteed that they will be given the full 60 days.
Maryland Eviction Timeline
Below is the average timeline for a complete eviction process. This timeline does not include special cases such as a request for an appeal or delays in the issuance of a Writ of Restitution
On average, it would take anywhere between 32 days – 5 months for a complete eviction process.
1. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the eviction request and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This is essential to your case and may be the reason the judge rules in your favor.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This gets VERY hard to search through, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other option that is easily searchable.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
2. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, when rent is due, and any penalties for late payment.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also, show any fees your bank may have charged you, and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, a letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it is always good to be able to prove that you let the tenant know of any violations and that they were given ample time to resolve the situation. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
3. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, it’s safe to say you will normally win this dispute.
- Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. As a good practice though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.
Can I force a tenant to move out in Maryland?
No. A landlord could be sued for forceful eviction of a tenant if they skip the proper eviction processes.
In the state of Maryland, tenants can sue their landlord for the following amounts:
- Actual damages
- Reasonable attorney’s fees
Which eviction methods are considered illegal in Maryland?
Self-help eviction is illegal. Examples of such acts include (but are not limited to):
- Cutting off the tenant’s electric, water, and/or heat supply
- Changing the locks to prevent the tenant from entering the property
- Vandalizing or destroying the tenant’s property
What are the penalties for a self-help eviction in Maryland?
According to Maryland Civil Code, you may be liable for Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees. The statute may also grant the tenant the right to stay in the property.
A tenant can sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.
What other laws should I be aware of in Maryland?
Landlords should be aware of the changes made to the Eviction Policies in the state of Maryland. Especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is also wise for landlords to check out laws on Security Deposits. These deposits protect the landlord in case the tenants violate any terms in the lease/rental agreement or fail to pay their rent.
- District of Maryland Cost Schedule
- eForms: Maryland Eviction Notice Forms
- Maryland DHCD: Guidelines for Rental Tenants Affected by COVID-19
- NOLO: Consequences of Illegal Evictions
- NOLO: The Eviction Process in Maryland: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers
- The Balance SMB: 7 Basics of Maryland’s Security Deposit Law