No landlord wants to ever deal with a lengthy and costly tenant eviction process. However, giving tenants “second chances” to put off the inevitable rarely works out. Besides, one second chance is usually enough to tell landlords whether the problem tenant has straightened out or not. Keep in mind that putting off eviction any further equals money lost. After all, you are running a business! When it comes to evicting a tenant, each state has a set of rules and laws to follow, which can prove daunting. So, the specialists at Bay Property Management Group have put together a few tips on how to go through with an eviction.
When Can a Landlord Evict a Tenant?
To legally evict a tenant, a landlord must have just cause. Remember that tenant rights are protected by law, and violating them may get owners involved in costly litigation. Continue reading below for a list of legal and legitimate reasons to evict a tenant.
- Non-Payment of Rent
- Tenant Holding Over
- Lease Violations
- Wrongful Detainer
Non-Payment of Rent
A landlord’s business hinges on receiving on time and in full rental payments. So, if the rent is due on the first and not received within the grace period per the lease, landlords can technically start the eviction process. That said, if this is the first late occurrence, we recommend reaching out to the tenant first. For example, there may be a simple explanation, such as a family emergency or technical issues with the bank. A single instance of late payment is not a reason to evict an otherwise diligent tenant. However, if the issue is habitual, filing for eviction is in the landlord’s best interest long-term.
Tenant Holding Over
When the lease term expires, a tenant must vacate unless they have secured a renewal option. If they do not leave, this is known as “holding over.” In this situation, eviction is a reasonable and often necessary next step. Holding over can cause significant trouble for landlords, especially if there is a new tenant ready to move in! So, the sooner landlords start the eviction process, the sooner they will get the property back.
The lease’s purpose is to identify rules and conditions both the landlord and tenant must adhere to. Therefore, if the tenant violates any lease condition, owners have a right to remove the tenant from the property. A few examples of common lease violations include –
- A tenant brought pets into a pet-free apartment.
- More tenants are residing on the property than the number stated on the lease.
- The tenant damaged or otherwise modified property in a way prohibited in the lease.
Additionally, the State of Maryland can bring action against the tenants if they participated in illegal activities, specifically drug-related. So, property owners need to be aware of quite a few legal issues – something our Baltimore property managers are trained in and happy to help with.
A wrongful detainer describes occupants that are not part of the lease contract with the landlord. This could be a guest, family member, or any other unauthorized persons residing in the property. If this occurs, and the occupant does not vacate upon request, property owners must use the court system to evict the occupant.
How to Evict a Tenant in Maryland
As we mentioned above, each state has its own procedures and laws every landlord must follow regarding evictions. Follow along below as we walk owners through things you cannot do, plus the steps required for a legal eviction.
Steps Landlords Cannot Take to Evict a Tenant
- Retaliatory Action – Any eviction reason outside of the four listed above, such as retaliatory evictions, could prove detrimental to a landlord. Retaliatory evictions occur when landlords attempt to remove a tenant in response to a complaint or action within a tenant’s legal rights. For example, the tenant reports a building code violation.
- Self-Help Evictions – Along with being potentially dangerous, self-help evictions are illegal. Therefore, any attempt to forcefully remove, threaten, or intimidate a tenant will only cause more harm than good.
- Fair Housing Violations – Fair Housing Laws protect individuals from housing discrimination based on various protected classes such as race, gender, familial status, and age. That said, always check with your local jurisdiction to find a full list of protected classes in your area. Landlords may not attempt to evict a tenant based solely on discrimination of any kind.
Tenant Eviction Process in Maryland
Whenever possible, especially in the case of a first-time mild offense, try to reason with the tenant. When the action is out of character for an otherwise great tenant, discussing the matter could be all that is needed. This may save landlords time and money by not needing to pursue a formal eviction.
Serve a Notice to Quit
If eviction is the only way out, the next step is to serve the tenant a Notice to Quit. This notifies the tenant of the violation and indicates a period of time to either correct it or vacate. That said, there are two ways to serve notice; either in person, by knocking and directly handing the notice to the tenant, or simply posting the notice in a visible location on the property like the front door.
Pro Tip: Always keep a record of the notice served transaction. For example, if posting the notice, snap a photo, document the location, and record the time and date for your records.
Landlord and Tenant Complaint
If the tenant does not vacate or fix the problem within the allotted timeframe, a property owner must take them to court. This involves filing a formal landlord and tenant complaint with the district court. Once filed, the court clerk processes the complaint along with any other supporting evidence.
Attend the Eviction Trial
After the complaint is processed, the court issues a trial date where each party has the opportunity to present their version of the facts. Attend the trial and bring all the documents proving you have a valid reason to evict the tenant. If you are seeking monetary compensation from the tenant, check here for more details. After hearing both sides, the judge will make their determination. Providing that the judge rules in favor of the landlord that the eviction is lawful, the tenants are then ordered to vacate immediately.
Order of Possession
Believe it or not, some tenants still may not leave after the court order. So, there is one final step if that unfortunately occurs, and that is seeking an order of possession. Therefore, with this document in hand, a sheriff can remove the tenants and their possessions from the property. Remember, never attempt to remove a tenant on your own. This is potentially dangerous and illegal.
The Effects of COVID-19 on Maryland Evictions
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent eviction moratoriums have left many tenants and landlords in limbo. Despite the ups and downs as courts reopened to start hearing cases, changes are still coming. Therefore, it is a good idea for landlords to review information on their local jurisdiction’s website for the most up-to-date information. That said, check out these two significant new developments below.
New Certification of CARES Act Compliance Required
For any failure to pay rent complaints filed from May 20 through August 24, 2020, a Declaration of Compliance with the CARES Act was required. Therefore, any filings that do not have this document will not be accepted or processed by the clerk.
Federal Eviction Moratorium Extended
On December 27, 2020, President Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which extended the CDC Order’s expiration date to halt residential evictions temporarily. The extended order halted residential evictions of covered persons for nonpayment of rent from September 4, 2020, through January 31, 2021. Furthermore, on January 20, 2021, the CDC announced an intent to extend the existing eviction moratorium again through March 31, 2021.
Are the Courts Hearing Eviction Cases?
Courts are hearing some landlord complaints for eviction but only under certain circumstances. These include only emergency matters listed in the Baltimore County District Court Phase Reopening Plan. Currently, the Court of Appeals states that Phase II is in effect until March 14, 2021. In other words, the court is not currently hearing any Failure to Pay Rent cases. Landlords may still file; however, the case will not be heard until future phases of reopening.
The Best Way to Handle Tenant Evictions in Maryland
The entire eviction process typically takes between 2 and 6 months, but COVID has significantly extended that timeline. Therefore, with so many changing laws, a professional property management company is a landlord’s best asset when it comes to evictions.
Offering full-service property management in Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, the teams at Bay Property Management Group know that eviction is often a necessary measure in some cases. We can help owners navigate the tangled web of regulations but also take every step to avoid it in the first place. Thoroughly screening applicants for creditworthiness, references, rental history, and criminal background is crucial to finding reliable and responsible tenants. So, give us a call to learn how our team can efficiently manage your Baltimore, York, Lancaster, Dauphin, Cumberland counties, or nearby property in Maryland.