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Maryland’s ‘Repair and Deduct’ Laws – Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

Rental Property AgreementMaryland is one of the dozens of states that have what is commonly known as a “repair and deduct” law on the books. Designed to protect tenants against negligent landlords, this law includes strict guidelines that dictate what types of repairs a property owner is responsible for. It also includes the steps tenants can take and the conditions under which tenants can legally withhold rent payments related to maintenance issues. That said, if you want to learn more about repair and deduct laws in Maryland, just keep reading.

Legal Responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants

Landlords in Maryland have a legal obligation to keep their properties ‘habitable’ – that means ensuring that the unit is safe, includes basic utilities, and is reasonably free of major defects that could impact the tenants’ “quiet enjoyment.” For example, this includes extermination services in multi-tenant properties, ventilation, heating, and lighting. Some other major landlord responsibilities include:

  • Comply with all building codes and local laws
  • Maintain common areas in rental properties, including landscaping and hallway lighting
  • Perform necessary repairs in a timely manner
  • Ensure vital services are in working order, including access to water, plumbing, and heat
  • Supply proper trash receptacles for all rental units

landlord-responsibilitiesThat said, tenants also have responsibilities with the maintenance of their rental property. For instance, they need to keep their unit “in a clean and sanitary condition. This includes storing and disposing of trash in a way that complies with local laws and handling pest issues within the unit. Some other major tenant responsibilities include:

  • Follow all housing and occupancy codes
  • Keep the property safe and hazard-free
  • Report maintenance issues immediately
  • Keep up with seasonal maintenance, like shoveling snow or raking leaves
  • Keep household appliances clean and in working order
  • Prevent mold growth within the unit

That said, you may be wondering what happens if your landlord fails to make repairs or ensure a safe, habitable environment. So next, we’ll go over what you can do if your landlord fails to comply with the law.

What Is Rent Escrow and How Does It Work?

According to the Maryland Code, Real Property Section 8-211, “Maryland law requires landlords to repair and eliminate conditions that are a serious threat to the life, health, or safety of occupants.”

In situations where a property owner has failed to complete the necessary maintenance and repairs needed to keep their rental units safe and habitable, tenants can take steps to hold their landlord accountable in court.

Under this law, tenants have the right to commence legal action against their landlords through their local district court. Rather than pay their rent to their landlord, tenants pay their usual rent into an escrow account. The court holds the account until a judge reviews the tenant’s claims and the landlord’s response.

That said, there are specific procedures for tenants to set up an escrow account with the court. Read along as we go over the steps in the escrow process.

Steps In The Escrow Process

Contrary to what some tenants may believe, they cannot simply withhold their rent to force a landlord to perform maintenance on their unit or rental building.

repair-and-deduct-lawsTenants can start the escrow process by putting their complaints in writing and then allowing a reasonable amount of time for the repairs to be made. In general, the courts expect landlords to complete all safety-related repairs within 30 days or less.

If a landlord fails to act within a reasonable amount of time, the tenant can apply to the court to commence the escrow process. Then, there will be a hearing, and the judge will make a ruling. The ruling may include a reduction in rent for the tenant, termination of the tenant’s lease, or an order to the landlord that immediate repairs be made.

Now, if you’re wondering what’s covered under Maryland’s repair and deduct laws, not all maintenance issues are cause for rent escrow. Instead, the repairs must meet specific criteria for tenants to open an escrow account. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s Covered Under Maryland’s Repair & Deduct Laws

Rent escrow is designed to be used in situations where dangerous conditions exist, such as:

  • A lack of heat, power, or water (unless it’s due to tenant failure to pay)
  • Unchecked rodent infestation in a multi-unit structure
  • Structural defects that pose a threat to health and safety
  • The presence of lead paint
  • Property conditions that pose fire or health hazards
  • Inadequate sewage disposal

repair-and-deductNot Covered Under Repair and Deduct Laws

Maryland’s repair and deduct laws don’t apply to all rental property maintenance issues. For instance, you can’t take your landlord to court because they didn’t repaint your rental unit. Additionally, rent escrow does not apply to minor maintenance issues, including:

  • Small cracks in walls
  • Faded or old paint
  • Discolored carpets and flooring
  • Lack of air conditioning
  • Cosmetic issues with the property

Overall, if you’ve noticed any of these issues in your rental property, talk to your Washington DC property managers. Landlords or property managers are generally willing to work with tenants on minor issues related to the property. They can also hire maintenance if you have any major issues with your rental unit.

Avoid Property Repair Issues with Comprehensive Management

If you own one or more rental properties, keeping up with repairs and maintenance at each one can be challenging. However, it’s one of the most crucial parts of running a rental property business. After all, you don’t want to threaten the safety of any of your tenants. That said, following Maryland’s repair and deduct laws is crucial for all local landlords.

If you need help managing your rental properties, you’re not alone. Bay Property Management Group works with landlords from all across Baltimore, Philadelphia, Northern Virginia, and Washington, DC. Our qualified professional property managers can help you keep all repairs up to date and maintain compliance with all local laws. Contact BMG today if you’re looking for comprehensive rental property management services.