In Maryland, as with any other state, if rent is paid in a timely manner in exchange for inhabiting property, a landlord-tenant relationship is established (even without a written lease), and with this relationship comes rights and responsibilities for both parties.
Basic Landlord Responsibilities
Keep the rental fit to live in. The landlord is required to provide housing that is habitable and to make repairs in a timely manner when required.
Quiet enjoyment. The landlord is required not to disturb the tenant’s rights to peacefully and reasonably use their rented space.
Basic Tenant Responsibilities
Pay rent on time. If the tenant does not pay rent in full and in a timely manner, the landlord has the right to take action to end the tenancy.
Cover excessive damages. Tenants are responsible to cover the costs of damages to the property beyond normal “wear and tear”.
With that said, Maryland varies from other states on additional rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. Maryland law even varies on both the interpretation of the above rights and the rules on handling violations.
Warranty of Habitability in Maryland
Landlord Responsibilities. As in most US states, landlords in Maryland are legally responsible for maintaining the health and safety of their rentable units. These standards are primarily codified in the state’s warranty of habitability, which requires landlords for single- and multi-family dwellings to provide and maintain the following amenities:
- Adequate supply of hot and cold water
- In-unit heating (and cooling, if an AC unit is provided)
- Working plumbing system
- Safe electric wiring, outlets, and lighting
- Safe and accessible fire exits
If any of these listed amenities breaks down, a Maryland tenant is entitled to request repairs from their landlord. (This requirement may also apply to any supplementary amenities provided by a Maryland landlord to their tenant at the beginning of their lease.) After this kind of request is filed in writing, a Maryland landlord is only required to act upon it in a “reasonable” amount of time. Typically, this has been interpreted in practice to mean 30 days after proper notice is filed.
Tenant Responsibilities. Maryland tenants are also required to play a role in maintaining the health and safety of their rented unit. Specifically, they are required to maintain their space in a livable condition that does not put other tenants or the structure in general in harm’s way.
Landlords are tasked with ensuring that these standards are maintained and are allowed to issue notices of infractions at their discretion. From there, tenants likely have 30 days to cure the issue or face eviction (though Maryland does not specify how much time a tenant is entitled to when it comes to resolving a habitability issue).
Maryland tenants are empowered to take “alternative action” against their landlord, as well, but only in limited circumstances. For example, a tenant who feels that their essential amenity repair request has been mishandled or ignored may repair the issue on their own and deduct the associate cost from their next rent payment. Maryland tenants may also withhold rent payments outright in these situations.
Evictions in Maryland
To legally evict a tenant in Maryland, a landlord must rely on one or more of these following reasonable justifications:
- Nonpayment of rent and other lease violations – Maryland does not set forth separate statutory requirements for notice prior to eviction for a late rent payment and other types of lease violation. In both cases, a 14-Day Notice may be issued with terms describing what actions must be taken to terminate the eviction notice. If the tenant in question fails to pay up or meet the terms of the notice, they may be compelled to vacate the property after their landlord files a Complaint and Summons in Wrongful Detainer.
- Illegal Acts – When a Maryland documents one or more instances of a tenant engaging in illegal behavior that possess a “clear and present” danger to other tenants or the property at large, they may notify the applicable tenant of their observations with a 14-Day Notice to quit. This notice need not provide the tenant with a pathway to curing the infraction. Instead, the tenant is simply expected to move out within that 14 day time frame or face a forced eviction.
Evictions without a lease. All tenants in Maryland who rent from a landlord without signing on to a lease agreement at considered “at-will” tenants, thus making them more susceptible to cause-less evictions. Even so, at-will tenants in Maryland who rent on a month-to-month basis are entitled to 1 month of advance notice before being evicted without cause. Failure to vacate in that time period will open an at-will tenant to the same eviction process as a leased tenant.
Illegal Evictions. Maryland tenants cannot be evicted for a number of reasons, including in retaliation for taking certain actions. These include reporting a health or safety code violation to the appropriate housing authority or joining a tenant union. Maryland also expressly prohibits evictions based on discriminatory grounds. To this end, an eviction action may be invalidated if it is found to have been based primarily on a tenant’s race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
Security Deposits in Maryland
These are several of the most important regulations Maryland places on the collection, maintenance, and redistribution of security deposits by landlords operating in the state:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – Landlords in Maryland are only legally able to charge security deposits that are valued at up to twice the price of regular rent for that tenant. Maryland landlords that charge more than this maximum amount can actually become liable for paying up to three times the amount they charged as a penalty. Maryland tenants are able to bring grievances of this type for up to two years after the relevant lease ends.
- Interest and Maintenance – Maryland landlords are required to maintain all collected security deposits in an interest-bearing account at a federally-insured banking institution. These deposits must be placed into that bank account within 30 days of receipt by the landlord and must begin incurring interest immediately. This interest must accrue at the US Treasury average yield rate and can be paid out to tenants no sooner than 6 months after the initial deposit is made.
- Time Limit for Return – After tenancy concludes, landlords in Maryland have 45 days to return any and all security deposits (and applicable interest) to their tenant. There is not a specific requirement for mailing an itemized list of deductions as these deductions must be assessed in person by the landlord prior to the tenant’s move out date.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – If a Maryland landlord fails to perform a proper pre-move out inspection or fails to return a tenant’s security deposit on time, they forfeit any claim to that security deposit and its associated interest. Maryland law does not clarify who, if anyone, then gains a claim on the remaining security deposit and interest.
- Allowable Deductions – Maryland allows landlords to make security deposit deductions for several common reasons. In addition to these justifications listed here, Maryland landlords may also make deductions for any reason listed in an applicable lease agreement:
- Cover unpaid rent
- Offset cost of repairing damage that goes beyond regular wear and tear
- Offset other damages associated with a lease terms breach
Lease Termination in Maryland
Notice Requirements. Tenants in Maryland who enter into a fixed end-date lease agreement are not required to give their landlord notice in advance of their lease’s termination. However, tenants who rent through a variable lease agreement are required to give their landlord the following amounts of notice before they formally terminate their lease:
- Week-to-Week Lease – 1 week of advance notice
- Month-to-Month Lease – 1 month of advance notice
- Yearly Lease without an End Date – 3 months of advance notice (except for certain kinds of farming leases)
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. In general, tenants in Maryland who wish to break their lease early are expected to legally do so by invoking an early termination clause in their lease agreement. However, this option is not available to all tenants, primarily because not all leases include an early termination clause. Tenants who find themselves in this latter situation can invoke one of the following justifications for breaking their lease early instead:
- Active Military Duty – Federal law allows service members who are relocating due to deployment or permanent change of station to terminate their lease as early as 30 days from the next rent period.
- Unit is Uninhabitable – Throughout a leasing period, a Maryland landlord is required to continuously maintain all amenities provided to their tenant at the beginning of their lease. If any of the amenities required by the state’s warranty of habitability fall into disrepair and are not repaired in a timely manner, an affected tenant may claim themselves as “constructively evicted” due to the statutorily unlivable conditions. This, in turn, may allow them to push for their lease to become void immediately.
- Landlord Harassment – While Maryland does not maintain statutory requirements about how much notice a landlord must provide before entering an occupied unit, landlords operating in this state must still abide by any comparable policy implemented through an applicable lease agreement. Failure to do so may enable a tenant to claim that they are being harassed by their landlord and, in turn, push for a lease termination.
- Domestic and Sexual Violence – Under special circumstances, Maryland tenants may apply for the immediate termination of their lease if they supply evidence that supports their claim of domestic violence or sexual assault victimhood.
Even if a Maryland tenant is able to terminate their lease using one of the provisions listed above, they may still remain liable to pay for the remainder of their lease agreement in a lump sum. However, this obligation can be removed if a new tenant is found to fill the existing lease or initiate a new lease. Maryland landlords are required to “mitigate damages” when their tenant moves out early. As such, they must help their former tenant re-rent the unit to the best of their ability to avoid taking on additional financial liability.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Maryland
Rent control & increases. As a state, Maryland allows local jurisdictions to institute rent control policies at their own discretion. Currently, only one city (Takoma Park) does so, however. Everywhere else in the state, landlords are allowed to raise rent freely. Maryland landlords are also not statutorily required to provide advance notice of an upcoming rent increase.
Rent related fees. Maryland landlords are statutorily allowed to charge certain types of fees to their tenants, based upon certain actions that may hard that landlord’s bottom line. To be specific, landlords in Maryland are able to charge late rent payment fees when a tenant fails to pay the full amount of their rent bill on time. Maryland’s laws do prohibit these fees from being valued at any more than 5% of the applicable late rent payment.
Also, Maryland landlords are allowed to charge returned check fees. However, the state does not place any valued-based limitation on these fees. As such, Maryland landlords are allowed to charge as much as they want when it comes to bounced check fees, both in total and per diem.
Housing Discrimination in Maryland
Federal Protections. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. However, the law does not apply to all housing, such as owner-occupied homes with 4 or fewer units or housing operated by religious organizations.
State Protections. Maryland provides several supplementary protections that go above and beyond those provided by the federal Fair Housing Act. Specifically, Maryland protects individuals who are seeking housing based upon the following characteristics and attributes:
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. The Maryland Commission on Civil Rights oversees the application and enforcement of the state’s numerous civil rights laws, including those that impact landlords and tenants. While many actions on the part of a landlord may constitute discrimination, the Commission has highlighted these following business practices as being discriminator when they target certain protected classes:
- Refusing to sell or rent housing to a qualified buyer
- Using discriminatory terms or conditions in a lease
- Publishing advertisements or notices that state a preference or limitation for certain types of tenants
- Representing a unit as being unavailable when it is, in fact, available
- Steering prospective tenants to live in a certain segregated neighborhood
- Inquiring about birth control or other family planning practices
- Refusing to make reasonable accommodations
The Maryland Commission on Human Rights performs investigations into landlords who are believed to be presently or to have previously engaged in discriminatory business practices or behaviors. These investigations are designed to discover if a tenant has probable cause to sue their landlord in civil court for associated damages. The Commission itself does not administer punishments, though.
Maryland tenants who wish to file a discrimination complaint can learn more about the submission process and initiate the process here.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Maryland
These are just a few more important landlord-tenant laws and regulations that are on the books in Maryland. Landlords and tenants alike should review them to ensure that no misunderstandings arise between each party’s legally sanctioned obligations.
Landlord Entry. Unlike many other states, Maryland does not actually maintain a statewide statute regarding when and how a landlord may enter an occupied unit. As such, Maryland landlords are allowed free entrance into a tenant’s unit at any time and for any reason without any leasing provisions to the contrary. As such, it is critical for both parties to hash out an operable entry policy that includes advance notice provisions before finalizing a lease.
Regardless of any applicable lease provisions, landlords in Maryland are generally understood to be able to enter an occupied unit without permission when an emergency arises. This permission-less right to entry should not be overused, though, as abuse of any right to entry may constitute landlord harassment.
Small Claims Court. Maryland’s small claims court system accepts cases from both landlords and tenants that are valued at no more than $5,000 in total. This includes eviction cases, though even these cases cannot be valued at greater than $5,000. Landlord-tenant disputes that are seeking damages of greater than $5,000 will likely need to file with the state’s district courts.
Mandatory Disclosures. Maryland only requires its landlords to make a couple informational disclosures to their tenants. These disclosures, which should be made in writing, are as follows:
- Lead-based paint. For houses built prior to 1978, federal law requires landlords to provide tenants with information about lead based paint hazards. Read more.
- Right to Initial and Final Inspection. Prior to signing a lease, landlords in Maryland must inform their tenant that they have a right to an in-person inspection of their unit both before they move in and after they move out. This disclosure must also state that tenants have the right to request these inspections for any day that is at least 5 days before their intended move in/out date.
- Right to Receive Itemized Deductions. Maryland landlords are also required to disclose a tenant’s right to receive an itemized deduction list as a result of their move-out inspection. This disclosure must detail the process for requesting this list, including the fact that it must be provided no later than 15 days after that tenant moves out.
Changing the Locks. Tenants in Maryland may be able to change their own lock without providing advance notice to their landlord because the state’s laws do not specifically prohibit it. That being said, it is a tenant’s best interest to do so anyway and provide their landlord with a new key copy afterwards.
Landlords in Maryland are explicitly forbidden from changing a tenant’s lock without their permission, though. Doing so may constitute an illegal lockout, for which a landlord may become liable for damages based upon the nature of their intent.
Local Laws in Maryland
Landlord tenant rights are not exclusively governed by state law. Cities and counties may enact their own rules and regulations for renters.
Baltimore Landlord Tenant Rights
The city of Baltimore maintains a fair number of landlord-tenant laws that only apply to properties within city limits. This includes a requirement for the installation of smoke detectors (in order to remain in compliance with the city’s fire code). The city also requires that tenants who live in a floodplain be informed as such and sign a disclosure affirming their understanding as such. More information on these local ordinances, as well as others that may impact how a Baltimore landlord operates their business, can be found here.
Takoma Park Landlord Tenant Rights
Takoma Park, Maryland, currently maintains its own rent stabilization program that primarily requires landlords to take extra steps when attempting to raise a tenant’s rent price. To that end, all tenants in Takoma Park are entitled to 2 months of advance notice before a rent increase goes into effect. Moreover, any new rent prices cannot be higher than the city’s annual rent increase allowance. More information, including the city’s current rent increase allowance rates, can be found here.