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What is a Maryland Month-to-Month Lease?
A month-to-month lease is a rental agreement that is designed to be a little more flexible than a fixed-term lease. The tenant agrees to the terms that are set for a single month, and if both parties continue to agree to the terms of the lease, it will continue to renew each month. These are typically called at-will leases, and they are an option that is often used by students, temporary workers, or those who are not planning on living in the area for a long period of time. Landlords also like the flexibly of this type of rental because they can raise the rent without much notice, and they will be able to end the tenancy of the resident with ease.
Maryland Notice requirements for Month-to-Month Termination
With a month-to-month lease, the landlord and the tenant will need to give the other party notice when they would like to end the agreement. According to state law, one party must give the other at least a month’s notice before vacating the property. This will provide the tenant plenty of time to find a new place to live, and it will provide the landlord with sufficient time to find a new tenant for the unit. If less notice is provided, there must be unsafe living conditions in the unit or a violation of privacy must have occurred.
Raising Rent in Maryland
As with any fixed-term lease, the tenant is not going to expect the landlord to raise the rent the day before it is due. They will expect ample warning if something in the contract changes, and in most parts of Maryland, 30 days notice is required. In Montgomery County of Baltimore City, the landlord must provide the tenant with two months’ notice before increasing the rent. There are not laws in Maryland that state how often the rent can be increased or by how much, so this will be up to the landlord.
For many, fixed-term leases that can last anywhere from six months to two years are very advantageous when looking for a residential rental unit. These leases can provide stability, many protections for the tenant, and the rental rate will be locked in for the life of the lease. Even with that in mind, these leases can also be reasonably restrictive; canceling before the life of the lease is over can really result in some steep consequences, and there are very few situations where a tenant can cancel without some form of repercussions.
For this reason, renters and landlords that aren’t sure if they want to engage in a fixed-term lease agreement find that month-to-month leases are very beneficial for all parties. Unlike fixed-term leases, these leases are at-will, and they only have a one-month duration. At the start of the next month, these leases renew for the length of that month and will continue to do so until canceled by either the lessee or the lessor. Based on Maryland state law § 8-402, both tenants and landlords must provide at least 30 days’ worth of notice to the other party before vacating a rental unit. This is significantly more convenient than being locked into a lease for another few months or even a few years.
For this reason, both the landlord and his or her renter can use this type of lease to great advantage:
- It can allow landlords to capitalize on temporary housing demand: Sometimes, certain areas are hot for new tenants looking for a place to live. When this happens, a landlord can rent out a unit for the short term and capitalize on this burst of neighborhood popularity.
- It can get tenants out quickly: If the landlord is looking to house a particular tenant, like family, but that tenant isn’t available immediately, then he or she can temporarily rent out the property to a third party. When the intended tenant becomes available, a lease termination form can be filed, and within a month, the new tenant can be moving in.
- Rent can be increased often: It’s traditional in many areas for landlords to increase the rent when the lease is renewed, and since this type of tenancy renews monthly, the landlord only needs to give a 30-day heads up to the renter before increasing the rent. This means that the rent can increase as often as the landlord wants it to. It also makes it easy for the tenant to opt-out if rent rises too much.
- It’s easier to find a home: When a tenant is looking to purchase a house, a month-to-month tenancy makes it easy to stay in a nearby area until a dream property becomes available.
Writing a Month to Month Lease Agreement in Maryland
Despite the many advantages of these types of leases, for the sake of legality, it’s critical that the month-to-month lease agreement is very comprehensive so that both parties are well-represented and covered. For this reason, certain sections will need to be covered in the lease. Here’s what will have to be included:
Information for the Lessee and the Lessor
The first part of this lease will provide identifying information for the parties involved. This means that the full names of both the property owner or his or her management company and the renter will need to be at the beginning of the document. In addition, the date of the agreement should also be included.
The cornerstone of any lease agreement will invariably be the timely payment of rent, which is why the first section after the establishment of the involved parties should center around the rent payments. This section needs to first establish, with certainty, the monthly value of the rent so that both parties can utilize the lease if there are any questions. After this is included, if there is a specific location where the rent must be delivered or mailed, then this will need to be included so that the renter has the information easily at hand.
Information about the Security Deposit
Security deposits are very useful for landlords because these fees can help him or her recoup any loss of revenue that results from repairing the damage that has occurred during a tenancy. In Maryland, the security deposit paid at the start of a tenancy, even a month-to-month one, has a limit imposed by the state of two months’ worth of rent though, for the most part, most landlords will charge only a month’s worth to a tenant in an at-will tenancy.
When the tenancy ends, Maryland law also states that the landlord has a maximum of 45 days to return the amount of the security deposit to his or her former renter, and if damage has resulted from the tenancy, then the landlord must itemize how much money was deducted from this fee. This information should be included very clearly in the lease agreement.
These types of agreements also need to firmly establish property rules for pets. For example, some properties don’t allow pets at all, while others allow for some pets, but some types are forbidden. In any situation, the agreement should have fairly specific language regarding what’s allowed for pets in the unit. Additionally, similarly to the security deposit, some landlords charge a “pet fee,” which is designed to help the landlord repair any pet-related damage that may have occurred during the at-will tenancy. Policies about the return of the pet fee as well as how often it’s charged should be clearly placed in the agreement.
Cars and Parking
In the state of Maryland, there are many individuals that drive, and many of the rental properties throughout the state use allotted parking as an incentive to draw tenants. If there is to be assigned parking for the tenants, then details about the specific parking spot should be included somewhere in the lease so that the tenant can use it later. Also, if there are specific sections about snow removal or alternate side of the street parking, it should be included in this section.
Finally, since cars can be towed away at an owner’s expense when there is private parking, it’s also a good idea to include a section where a tenant can describe the make and model of their vehicle so that the landlord can have this information on file.
Tenant Expectations and Additional Terms
Similarly to a standard, fixed-term lease, tenant expectations will need to be established, and rules for the property will need to be established in the lease. This ensures that the tenant understands expectations, and it also serves as a degree of verification when a landlord needs to take a tenant to court. Here are a few things to establish:
- Noise policies: When living on a property, all tenants want to be able to sleep and relax at the end of the day. To facilitate this, many properties use the lease to establish quiet times for all of the tenants on the property. During these times, tenants may not have loud parties, boisterous guests, or furniture rearranging. In many cases, properties establish a “three-strike rule” for violators.
- Policies about preexisting furnishings: With a month-to-month lease, it’s relatively common for a property to have preexisting furnishings. For clarity, and since these leases can sometimes extend into the years, it’s a good idea to explicitly state what comes in and stays in the rental unit. This way, the landlord avoids the tenant accidentally leaving with materials that were included in the rental.
- Common area upkeep: Neat and tidy living spaces can help a landlord entice new renters, so the lease should establish set rules on how the common areas are to be maintained. Rules establishing where trash is left and where personal items can be kept are essential for keeping things clean and presentable.
- Policies on abandonment: One side-effect of an at-will tenancy is a potentially quick turnaround. For this reason, sometimes, it’s not always clear when a tenant has vacated the premises permanently. As a result, some landlords can end up with lost revenue. For this reason, the lease agreement should clearly set a period of time, without communication, in which a landlord can consider a property officially vacated and abandoned. This will allow the landlord to determine when to look for new renters.
- Signage policies: When it’s been established that a tenant is intending to vacate, a landlord may want to search for new tenants. For this reason, there should be a section of the lease that establishes when a landlord may begin posting signage to find new tenants.
Just like a standard lease, there needs to be a section at the base of the document that will signify the consent of both parties. There should be a few spaces at the base where both the lessor and the lessee can sign and print their name as well as the date the document so that it’s legal in the courts.