Maryland Habitability Laws

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. Maintain working plumbing, electrical wiring and lighting, heating, ventilation, and supply hot and cold running water (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlord must make repairs necessary for habitability within reasonable period of time (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant can pay rent into an escrow account established at the local District Court. (read more).
  • Retaliation. If a landlord is reported to a local city or county inspector for housing code violations, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate, such as by threatening eviction (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in Maryland does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are & aren’t included.

Dwelling Type Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single family Yes
Multi-family Yes
Fraternities/Sororities/Clubs Not specifically addressed
RV parks Not specifically addressed
Mobile home parks Not specifically addressed
Condos Not specifically addressed
Hotels/Motels No

Landlord Responsibilities

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in Maryland, as indicated below.

Note: some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability Issue Landlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair. Not addressed
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks. Not addressed
Provide hot and cold running water. Yes*
Provide working HVAC equipment. Yes* (AC not required)
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting. Yes*
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cooking Not addressed
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet). Not addressed
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services). Not addressed
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe. Not addressed
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe. Not addressed
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean. Yes
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials. Not addressed
Provide working smoke detectors Not addressed
Provide a mailbox. Not addressed
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack. Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances. Not addressed
Provide working carbon monoxide detector. Not addressed
Provide a working washer/dryer. Not addressed

*Written leases in Maryland address whether the landlord or tenant is responsible for supplying heat, gas, electricity, water, and performing minor repairs.  Carefully review the lease provisions in these areas.

Lead-based Paint

Maryland landlords are required to mitigate lead-based paint in any rental properties they own, including exterior paint. Failure to do so can result in legal action, and paying for a tenant’s temporary housing while the lead paint hazard is mitigated.

In addition, for all rental properties built prior to 1978, landlords must provide tenants with a booklet titled “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home” prior to signing the lease.

The landlord may be required to pay up to $2,500 in permanent relocation expenses for a tenant if the issue is not mitigated or cannot be resolved, and the tenant is free to terminate the lease.

Rodents

If rodents are found in at least two units of a multi-family rental property, the landlord must take action to remove the rodents, and failure to do so is considered to be a habitability issue.

Making Repairs

If tenants request repairs that affect habitability, they must put their request in writing to the landlord.

  • Sending notice – The tenant must send the landlord a notice of the defects by certified mail. The amount of time the landlord has to complete repairs depends on the severity of the defect and the danger it poses to the tenant but should not take more than 30 days to complete.
  • Landlord access – Landlord may enter the property for certain reasons including emergency or to make necessary repairs.

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold rent – Maryland landlord tenant law does not outright state that a tenant can withhold their rent to force a landlord to perform maintenance on their unit or rental building.
  2. Repair and deduct – Maryland law does not outright state that a tenant can repair and deduct for any necessary repairs.
  3. Lawsuit – If a landlord fails to make repairs within a reasonable amount of time, tenants can pursue legal action against their landlords by filing a complaint through the local district court. The tenant can then deposit rent money into an escrow account established at the District Court. A hearing will then be held, and the judge will make a decision that could include a reducing rent for the tenant, terminating the tenants’ lease, or ordering the landlord to make necessary repairs.
  4. Reporting to Public Officials – A tenant can report the landlord to local authorities such as a housing or building inspector. The inspectors will investigate the complaint and, if the landlord is cited for violations, repairs have to be made.

Minor problems or non-dangerous violations of a local housing code are not covered by this law.

Landlord Retaliation

It is illegal for a landlord to evict, increase rent, or fail to provide services in retaliation to the following tenant’s actions:

  • organizing or joining a tenants’ organization
  • complaining to the landlord
  • filing a good-faith complaint against the landlord with the housing inspection department or other governmental agency, or
  • filing a lawsuit.

Sources