No landlord looks forward to an eviction. Unfortunately, it is sometimes necessary as a legal means for getting a problem tenant out of your rental property.
Maryland laws are very strict when it comes to evicting a tenant, regardless of the reasoning behind the eviction. As a landlord, it is important that you and your property management company be aware of the proper and legally compliant procedures behind evicting a tenant to avoid legal troubles of your own.
Today, we will look at some of the most common eviction mistakes even the most experienced landlords have made so that you can prevent repeating them and save yourself a lot of time, money, and headaches in the future.
The Maryland Eviction Process
Evicting a tenant in Maryland requires several specific steps.
- Provide the tenant with an eviction notice. Prior to filing a suit in court, you must provide your tenant proper notice of your intent to force them out of your property. Oftentimes called a ‘Notice to Quit,’ an eviction notice outlines your reasoning for wanting them evicted and must give them the allotted time to vacate (anywhere from 3-30 days, depending on the situation).
- File a complaint against the tenant in District Court. This will be a written complaint to the court outlining the reason for wanting to evict your current tenant from your rental property.
- The court will issue a summons to your tenant. The county sheriff will send a legal court summons to your tenant informing the tenant to appear in court on the fifth day after the complaint was filed.
- Attend the court hearing. The judge will hear both sides of the story during a court hearing. If an eviction is warranted your tenant will then have 4 days to vacate your property. If the tenants fails to leave within the 4 days, you may ask the court for a Warrant of Restitution which instructs the sheriff to escort your tenants off the property.
You can legally begin the eviction process against your Maryland tenant for the following reasons:
- Non-payment of rent
- Holding over past the agreed upon lease term
- Breaching any provision of the lease agreement
Sometimes, before even beginning the eviction process, it can be helpful to try and settle the problem without an official eviction.
Common Eviction Mistakes
Maryland state law forbids property owners from taking matters into their own hands when it comes to evicting a tenant. If you personally attempt to force your tenant off of your property in any way, you may face legal troubles of your own. Examples of self-help evictions include:
- Changing the property’s locks so the tenant cannot get inside the home
- Removing the front door
- Turning off utilities such as the water, heat, or electricity
- Removing the tenant’s personal possessions from the property
- Harassing the tenant in hopes of convincing them to leave of their own accord
Self-help evictions in Maryland are not only illegal, they can be dangerous as well. You never know how a tenant is going to react to your kicking them out onto the streets with all of their belongings. Your safety should take priority. Let the courts handle the eviction so that it is done in a professional, safe, and legal way.
Not Giving Proper Notice
Before you file a complaint with the District Court to have your tenant evicted, you must provide the tenant with a proper “Notice to Vacate.” This notice informs your tenants they have “x” number of days to vacate the property or you will begin eviction proceedings against them.
The Notice to Vacate will outline the reasoning behind the eviction. Sometimes, through no fault of the tenant, a property must be vacated.
If you do not provide the correct amount of advanced notice to your tenant, whether there is a warranted reason for an eviction or not, you could face a difficult time evicting your tenant, which means more time and money will be lost on your property.
There are several reasons why you may feel you want to evict your Maryland tenant even though they may not be valid reasons.
According to the eviction laws in Maryland, you cannot evict your tenant (or increase the rent or decrease the services agreed to in the lease for that matter) for the following reasons:
- Solely because tenant is a member of a tenants’ organization;
- Solely because tenant filed suit against the landlord; or
- Solely because tenant consulted a lawyer on a matter involving the tenant’s rights.
- In any eviction proceeding, if judgment is for the tenant on the basis of any of the above defenses, the court may order the landlord to pay reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs for the tenant (Section 9-10(c)).
Attempting to evict your tenant for any of the above outlined reasons is grounds for what is called ‘Retaliatory Eviction” and is illegal. Some cases, such retaliation, may even prevent you from pursuing any type of eviction procedures against that particular tenant in the future.
No Evidence Backing Eviction Procedure
Another common mistake many landlords make when attempting to evict their Maryland rental property tenant is failing to have documented evidence supporting the eviction claims. It does you no good to file a claim in court stating your tenant has not been paying the monthly rent if you have no bank statement or correspondence regarding non-payment between you and the tenant.
You have to prove an eviction is just and right. Here are some helpful documents you should have access to for every property you own as rental property:
- Signed lease agreement
- Copy of Notice to Cease
- Copy of Notice to Quit
- Bank statements
- All correspondence between yourself and the tenant
- Pictures of damage
- Complaints from other tenants
- Any other evidence that will support your motion to evict
If you do not come to court with the proper documentation that your tenant is deserving of an eviction, even if they truly are, they may be allowed to stay in your property due to lack of evidence. This could prove very detrimental to your rental property business and could have lasting effects on your positive cash flow.
Let’s be honest, you do not ever want to have to face a tenant in court for eviction proceedings. However, facing your tenant in court because you conducted yourself illegally when it came to seemingly harmless eviction mistakes would be far worse.
If you own rental property in Maryland, and fear the day you have to handle an eviction, consider enlisting the help of Maryland’s premier property management company, Bay Management Group. We have a solid background in all of Maryland’s rental property laws, including the eviction procedures. Taking evictions very seriously, Bay Management Group takes a swift and professional approach to guarantee a smooth eviction process. We will handle the entire process from start to finish so you don’t have to.
Having Bay Management Group on your side will prevent you from making the common eviction mistakes discussed above so you never find yourself with legal troubles. Let us help you keep your peace of mind when the unfortunate happens and handle all of your evictions for you.