Articles Tagged with Landlord Tenant Law

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What is the Tenant Safety Act of 2024?

Pursuant to House Bill 1117, effective October 1, 2024, the statute commonly known as the “rent escrow statute” will be amended to:

  • Allow multiple tenants to join as plaintiffs in a Petition in Action of Rent Escrow (commonly known as a rent escrow action);
  • Include a rebuttable presumption that a tenant is entitled to the adjudication of a request for rent abatement;
  • Include a rebuttable presumption that a tenant is entitled to an abatement of prospective rent; and
  • Allow a court who orders any relief to a tenant in a rent escrow matter to make a claim for recovery of attorney’s fees, costs and expenses related to litigation.

Permitting multiple tenants to join as plaintiffs in the same Petition in Action of Rent Escrow against a landlord will primarily affect multi-family properties with several units, where a group of tenants may make the same allegations in a rent escrow actions such as mold, flooding, rodents, or other similar issues that affect several units.

Significantly, the changes in the law also place the burden on the landlord to prove that it has not breached the warranty of habitability, as the court will presume that a tenant is entitled to abatement of both past due and prospective rent unless and/or until the landlord convinces the court otherwise.

These changes will impact all Maryland landlords.

 

If you need assistance with understanding recent changes in Maryland landlord-tenant law or issues involving rent escrow cases filed against landlords in Baltimore City, Baltimore County or the surrounding counties, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or e-mail:

 

Avery Barton Strachan, Esq.

astrachan@silvermanthompson.com

(410) 385-9113

 

Kerri L. Smith, Esq.

ksmith@silvermanthompson.com

(410) 385-9106

 

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What is constructive eviction?

An actual eviction occurs when a commercial landlord brings legal action seeking possession of leased premises from a commercial tenant, is awarded possession in Court, schedules an eviction of the tenant with the sheriff’s office, and the eviction is carried out by the sheriff.

A constructive eviction occurs when a commercial landlord does not physically or legally evict a commercial tenant, but rather acts, or fails to act, in a manner that interferes with a tenant’s use and enjoyment of the leased premises significantly enough to constitute an eviction in fact. For there to be a “constructive eviction,” a commercial tenant must be deprived of possession or beneficial use of the leased premises, which results in the tenant’s abandonment of the premises within a reasonable time.

 

To establish that there has been a constructive eviction in a commercial tenancy, a commercial tenant must prove that:

  1. The commercial landlord acted, or failed to act, in a way that substantially interfered with the tenant’s use and enjoyment of the leased premises;
  2. The landlord’s actions or inactions cause the leased premises to be unusable for the purpose it was rented;
  3. The commercial tenant gave the commercial landlord notice of the problem that led to the interference with the tenant’s use of the premises, and the landlords failed to respond and/or resolve the problem; and
  4. The tenant vacated the premises in a reasonable amount of time after the landlord failed to resolve the problem.

 

What are examples of circumstances that may constitute constructive eviction in a commercial lease?

The scope or magnitude of the landlord’s interference necessary to constitute a constructive eviction must go to the essence of what the landlord is to provide. There must be evidence that the landlord substantially interfered with the tenant’s use of the premises. While there are many acts or situations that would constitute a breach, common ones include:

  • Eliminating a significant number of parking spots.
  • Permitting persistent, loud construction (except if for necessary repairs).
  • Routinely playing loud, intrusive music in common areas.
  • Failure to provide electricity.
  • Failure to provide operable elevator service.
  • Failure to furnish adequate heat or air conditioning.
  • Failure to furnish sanitary restroom facilities.
  • Structural defects, such as persistent leakage of water through the roof, ceiling, or walls because of landlord’s fault.
  • Serious defects in the sewer, plumbing, or drainage.
  • Actions that deny customers access to the premises.

 

Notably, there are times when disturbances to quiet enjoyment are out of the landlord’s control, or permitted by the commercial lease, which would not constitute a constructive eviction, such as:

  • Construction conducted by the city in which the building is located.
  • Aesthetic issues inside the building and/or premises, such as the need to repaint or replace carpet.
  • Aesthetic issues outside the building, such as the need to clean windows, power wash the building, or maintain decorative landscaping.
  • Neighboring businesses that create unnecessary noise.
  • Major renovations to the building and/or premises.

When would a commercial tenant claim that a constructive eviction has occurred?

When a commercial tenant is unable to use its leased premises in the manner for which it was leased, the tenant does not receive the benefit of its bargain. In those circumstances, if a commercial tenant believes there has been a constructive eviction, the commercial tenant must vacate the premises in a reasonable amount of time, as the failure to do so results in a waiver of any potential constructive eviction claim.  After vacating, a commercial tenant may argue that the landlord has constructively evicted them and then may withhold rent and vacate the leased premises. If a commercial landlord seeks the rent owed under the commercial lease from the tenant, the commercial tenant may raise a constructive eviction as a defense to the rent owed. If the facts justify a legal finding of a constructive eviction, a commercial tenant will be released from liability under the lease.

 

If you have questions regarding constructive eviction or would like assistance in reviewing a commercial lease, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or email:

 

Avery Barton Strachan, Esq.

astrachan@silvermanthompson.com

(410) 385-9113

 

Kerri L. Smith, Esq.

ksmith@silvermanthompson.com

(410) 385-9106

 

Erin Donohue Brooks, Esq.

edonohuebrooks@silvermanthompson.com

(410) 385-9101

 

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What is the Renters’ Rights and Stabilization Act of 2024?

House Bill 693 made several substantial changes to existing Maryland landlord-tenant law:

Nonpayment of Rent Complaints

The cost for a landlord to file a Failure to Pay Rent Complaint has increased from $8 to $43 per case (plus an additional $10 in Baltimore City), along with the cost of service.

A landlord is not permitted to recover this cost from a tenant unless a court enters a judgment for possession in the landlord’s favor and the lease agreement provides that a surcharge may be assessed against the tenant.

Any deduction for this surcharge, if awarded by the court, may not be recovered from a tenant in an amount that exceeds the amount of the tenant’s security deposit.

 

Security Deposits

A landlord may not charge a security deposit in excess of one (1) month’s rent with very limited exception. This is a change from prior law which permitted a landlord to charge a security deposit of up to two months’ rent. The security deposit may not be forfeited to the landlord for breach of a lease, except in the amount the landlord is actually damaged by a breach, or the amount of a surcharge authorized by law.

 

Maryland Tenants’ Bill of Rights

The Renters Rights and Stabilization Act creates an Office of Tenant and Landlord Affairs to ensure that tenants have access to educational resources to aid in understanding and exercising tenants’ rights under state law, provides tenants with information on how to report a violation of their legal rights, offer tenants information on how to obtain financial counseling, and notify authorities regarding housing discrimination. The Office of Tenant and Landlord Affairs has been tasked with developing a Maryland Tenants’ Bill of Rights.

Landlords must provide tenants with a copy of the most current version of the Maryland Tenants’ Bill of Rights published by the Office of Tenant and Landlord Affairs at lease signing.

 

Tenants’ Right of First Refusal

House Bill 693 amends Section 8-119 of the Real Property Article and mandates the owner of residential rental property to send each tenant a written notice of the tenant’s right to deliver an offer to purchase the property, subject to certain exceptions, prior to listing the residential rental property for sale. The law governing this right of first refusal for residential tenants is detailed and very complex and, if a property owner fails to comply with its obligations, a tenant may file a notice of lis pendens which would interfere with closing on a sale of property.

The majority of the changes imposed by the Renters Rights and Stabilization Act will go into effect on October 1, 2025, and will impact all Maryland landlords and property owners.

 

If you need assistance with understanding recent changes in Maryland landlord-tenant law or issues involving failure to pay rent complaints, security deposits, or rights of first refusal in Baltimore City or the surrounding counties, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or e-mail:

Avery Barton Strachan, Esq.

astrachan@silvermanthompson.com

(410) 385-9113

 

Kerri L. Smith, Esq.

ksmith@silvermanthompson.com

(410) 385-9106

Continue reading →

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When are emotional support and/or service animals allowed in rental housing in Maryland? 

Under Maryland law, landlords are required to allow tenants with disabilities to keep emotional support and/or service dog in the rental unit, with very limited exceptions.  Landlords may be able to inquire and request that documentation be provided by a tenant regarding the need for the requested reasonable accommodation for an emotional support and/or service animal, prior to granting such request.   

 

What is a service animal? 

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How can you register a rental property in Baltimore City? Effective January 1, 2019, all non-owner-occupied dwelling units, regardless of whether it is a single-family or multi-family dwelling, must be licensed and registered in Baltimore City.

What are the steps to receive a rental license from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD)?

  • The Property must be registered with DHCD.
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How do you remove a squatter in Maryland? When an empty residential unit or vacant buildings become occupied by a person other than an authorized tenant, they are often referred to as a squatter. Squatter law in Maryland does not allow you to remove the unauthorized person without utilizing the legal process.

What is a squatter?

 A squatter is person who has taken physical possession of real property that they do not own, and who has not signed a lease or paid rent for the property. If a person refuses to leave the request of the property owner, they are considered a squatter and may be removed through filing a Complaint for Wrongful Detainer in the District Courts of Maryland.

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New Maryland Landlord-Tenant Law Effective October 1, 2023

Rental License Needed for ALL Eviction Cases

Pursuant to Senate Bill 100, effective October 1, 2023, if a county or municipality requires a rental license, a landlord MUST have a rental license to file any of the following actions:

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