Landlords and tenants alike struggled during the worst of the COVID pandemic. Quarantines led to job losses, which led to getting behind on rent, which normally would have led to eviction.
But lawmakers stepped in at the federal and state levels to enact eviction moratoriums to keep people from ending up homeless. Frequent extensions made it tough to keep up with the situation, and court closings kept filings from being ruled on at all. Legal changes often left the entire eviction process looking different by the time the moratoriums were lifted.
What changed with the Maryland eviction laws during COVID-19? Let’s take a look at the current situation in the state and what new things landlords and property managers need to be aware of going forward.
Eviction Moratorium Timeline
The halt on eviction proceedings started with the CARES act, which applied to federally backed properties and expired in July 2020. The CDC picked up the cause then, saying it considered evictions a health crisis as it would put potentially sick people on the street.
The CDC moratorium required that tenants meet certain criteria and generally only protected tenants from being evicted for the inability to pay their rent. The CDC extended the ban five times with the last extension primarily for areas that had high levels of COVID transmissions. That extension was struck down by the Supreme Court in August 2021.
During all that, most states implemented some form of eviction moratorium as well. Most were lifted by September 2020, though. Maryland’s eviction order expired on August 15, 2021.
Evictions in Maryland
Maryland landlords filed more than 600,000 evictions on average every year before the pandemic hit, and the state had a much higher share of renters who fell behind on rent.
But failure to pay was the only kind of eviction filing that fell under the moratorium, and the numbers on the other three types rose during the pandemic. They include:
- Tenant holding over
- Breach of lease
- Wrongful detainer
The state currently has no ban on evictions and had allowed filings for evictions even during the pandemic for reasons other than failure to pay. However, the Maryland courts weren’t always open to hear those cases. By the time the courts returned to normal operations this year, the period between filing and hearing had reached up to nine months in some jurisdictions.
The general eviction process remains the same despite the increase in time to process claims, which landlords should prepare for. The steps include:
- Post notice to tenant
- File with the court
- Court appearance
- Issue of eviction notice
- Eviction scheduled with Sheriff
- Property returned
Some jurisdictions continue to make efforts to provide rent assistance to help renters who have still not recovered lost income from the pandemic.
Changes to Maryland Eviction Laws During COVID-19
While the eviction moratorium in Maryland is over, several changes were made to the Landlord/Tenant laws to try to provide support for tenants. The changes sought to remedy the overwhelming number of eviction filings in Maryland every year and improve tenant rights.
Most of the changes came into effect in October 2021.
Failure to Pay Filing
Landlords now have to provide a 10-day notice to tenants to pay the amount owed or seek legal advice before filing for eviction. The notice has to be sent via first-class, certified mail and attached to the door of the dwelling. If you have the tenant’s agreement, it can also be sent via email, text, or through a tenant portal.
The previous rule did not require landlords to provide any kind of notice before beginning eviction proceedings. By allowing the tenant time to resolve the issue, the state hopes to reduce the overall number of filings.
Right to Counsel
An amendment to the state’s real property code now offers legal counsel to low-income renters at risk of eviction. While 96 percent of landlords come to eviction court with a lawyer, 99 percent of renters attend without one.
Landlords are required to inform their tenants of their right to counsel in the eviction notice. It’s important to catch that one, as failure to do so can result in your filing being dismissed.
Length of Notice
The law also changed the length of notice requirements for non-renewal or termination of a lease. It still varies based on the type of lease and is as follows:
- Week to week – 7 days
- Month to month – 60 days
- Year to year – 90 days
- No lease – 21 days
Tenants have to provide 30 days’ notice to cancel a week-to-week lease and 90 days for a month-to-month lease.
In the wings sit two other potential changes to the laws. Senate Bill 384 would delay eviction proceedings if there is a pending application for rent assistance. A judge will also be allowed to delay aneviction for up to 35 days even after ruling for the landlord.
Also under consideration is a requirement for just cause to terminate a lease at any time, even when the lease ends.
Stay On Top of Eviction Law Changes
Maryland has always had a surprisingly high number of eviction filings, and changes to the Maryland eviction laws during COVID-19 aimed to address that as much as the pandemic. New rules related to notifications attempt to give tenants more time to resolve the situation before the eviction process starts with the first filing. Good property management software should help you stay on top of all the changes to ensure you execute the steps correctly.