Being a landlord can be quite exciting. You get to meet new people, troubleshoot problems, and be your own boss. Of course, there are also a lot of things you need to know before you jump into such an endeavor. If you’re considering becoming a landlord in Baltimore and you’re wondering how to manage a rental property, we’ve got some property management tips to help you get started.
Being a Landlord in Baltimore 101: The New Rental Licensing Law
If you plan to rent your home in Baltimore, your property must be licensed to operate as a rental no later than January 1, 2019. This is a new law that was passed in early 2018 and became effective August 1, 2018. It applies to all forms of rental properties, including single-family, two-family, and multi-dwelling units. The new rental property license is issued by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) as long as property owners:
- Are registered with the DHCD.
- Have received a property inspection from a Maryland State-licensed and Baltimore City-registered Home Inspector.
If you rent your property without obtaining proper inspection and registration, you could face serious penalties, including a $1,000 fine, suspension, revocation, or denial of your license.
Screening Your Tenants
Most major cities have tenant-screening laws; Baltimore is no different. Before you advertise your space online, you’ll want to have a plan in place to make sure you attract optimal candidates. The trick is understanding what you’re legally allowed to do and ask before you make a devastating screening mistake.
Here are a few pointers:
- Charging Application Fees. Neither the state of Maryland nor the city of Baltimore limits the amount you can charge for application fees. In the city of Baltimore, all application fees are non-refundable. Keep in mind that security deposits and application fees are two different things, which means they have different laws governing them. Be sure to investigate both types of fees before collecting cash from your tenants.
- Running Background Checks. You may wish to run background checks on your potential tenants, so you can learn more about them before you hand over the keys. Be advised that Baltimore landlords are required to obtain written consent from potential renters before a background check can be performed. Without written consent, a background check is illegal.
Evicting Bad Tenants in Baltimore
Unfortunately, there may come a time when a tenant decides not to pay up or causes severe damage to your property, resulting in the need for eviction. Evicting someone isn’t necessarily easy, and it’s seldom fun, so it’s important to have all your ducks in a row before you deadbolt the door.
- Composing Your Lease. As a landlord, your lease is one of the most important documents you’re going to possess. This is where you clearly spell out your expectations, requirements, and penalties for failure to meet those requirements. It is absolutely imperative to have a professional firm compose your lease to ensure it captures everything you’ll need to protect yourself. You must provide your tenants with copies of their leases at the time they sign them.
- Absentee Ownership. If you won’t regularly be in the metropolitan Baltimore area, you must include the information of a managing agent on your lease.
- Service Notice. You’ll need to file an official complaint, at which time the sheriff or constable will serve the summons to your tenant or attach it conspicuously to the property. The summons will instruct the tenant to appear at a hearing five court days after the complaint was filed.
Did you know you can be a landlord without being left to figure everything out for yourself? A great property management company will help you every step of the way. At Bay Property Management Group, we’ve got everything you need to ensure a successful rental situation. We invite you to learn more about our property management services today!