Housing Cases and COVID-19

Information for Landlords

The COVID-19 State of Emergency has changed how housing cases are handled by the District Court. This page will give you some general information about what has changed.

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Four Types of Eviction Cases

Failure to Pay Rent – A landlord may file if a tenant is behind on rent.

Tenant Holding Over – A landlord may file this case when a tenant’s lease has expired. The landlord must first give the tenant written notice that they want to end the tenancy. The length of the notice depends on the lease and local law in your county.

Breach of Lease – This case is used when a tenant is being accused of not following the written lease. The landlord must first give the tenant a written notice identifying the lease violation and asking the tenant to leave. The court will only evict a tenant for breach of lease for serious violations of the lease.

Wrongful Detainer – File Wrongful Detainer to seek an eviction when there is no landlord and tenant relationship at all. This means the people involved never signed a lease or made rental payments. Wrongful Detainer is commonly used to evict friends, family, or other house guests who have no legal right to live in the property.

Definitions

Rent Escrow - Rent escrow is a case that a tenant can file against their landlord. The tenant must show the court that there is a health or safety problem in the property. The tenant must also prove that the landlord knew about the problem but failed to fix it. The Court may order the tenant to pay their rent to the court instead of to the landlord until the problem is resolved. At the end of the case, the judge will decide who will get the rent money being held by the court. The judge may also decide to end a lease early.

Warrant of Restitution - A warrant of restitution is a type of court order. It tells the sheriff or constable to go to a property and carryout an eviction. Filling out and filing a warrant of restitution is a landlord’s next step after being awarded a judgment. In Failure to Pay Rent cases, the landlord must wait four (4) business days after the hearing before they can file a warrant.

Once the landlord files a warrant, a judge will review it. If everything is correct, they will sign it, and a copy will be forwarded to the local sheriff or constables office. The landlord may then contact the sheriff or constable to schedule an eviction.

Can I have a tenant evicted?

Yes, evictions may now take place. The statewide pause on evictions was lifted on July 25, 2020.

If you had an eviction that was pending or scheduled before the state of emergency, then the sheriff or constable may now carry out that eviction. Contact your local sheriff or constable’s office to schedule the eviction.

Are the courts holding hearings on new eviction cases?

Yes. On July 20, 2020, the court started holding hearings on Breach of Lease, Tenant Holding Over, and Wrongful Detainer cases. On August 31, the court began holding hearings on Failure to Pay Rent cases.

Will my hearing be held in person or remotely?

Most hearings will be in person. Some courts may schedule your hearing by videoconference or telephone. Check your hearing notice carefully. If you’re not sure whether to appear in person, call the clerk’s office.

If your hearing is supposed to be in person, you can ask to participate by phone or video. Use this Form to ask to participate remotely.

Will the court handle Failure to Pay Rent cases differently?

Yes. The federal CARES Act, the CDC Agency Order, and Executive Order of the Maryland Governor may affect your Failure to Pay Rent case.

The Federal CARES Act
Failure to follow the CARES Act may cause your case to be dismissed. Consult with a lawyer if you have questions.

  1. The CARES Act applies to certain properties that are defined as a “covered dwelling.” This includes properties with federal backed mortgages and federally subsidized housing such as Section 8 Housing Vouchers. You can find whether your property may be a “covered dwellings” here. The CARES Act also applies to rental property if the owner received a mortgage forbearance.
  2. The Court required you to file a Declaration of Compliance form for all Failure to Pay Rent cases until August 25, 2020. The clerk should not have accepted Failure to Pay Rent cases filed without this form.
  3. If your property is a “covered dwelling” under the CARES Act, the CARES Act requires that you give your tenant a 30-day notice to vacate on or before the day you file Failure to Pay Rent. This notice could not be given any earlier than July 25, 2020. A judge will review the 30-day notice at your hearing.

The Governor's Executive Order
Governor Hogan issued an Executive Order on April 3, 2020, which applies to Failure to Pay Rent and Breach of Lease Cases. So long as the state of emergency remains in effect and the order remains the same, the judge may not order an eviction of your tenant if they suffered a substantial loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The judge will review the tenant’s evidence regarding lost income at the hearing.

If a tenant is successful in raising this defense, the court will determine the amount due for possession, but may reserve entry of judgment until the judgment is not prohibited by the Governor’s Order. Once the Governor’s Order expires, the court, without a request from any party, may enter judgment for possession. Landlords must continue to inform the court if payments are made while the case is pending, or judgment is reserved.

The CDC Agency Order – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order that says you cannot evict a tenant before December 31, 2020, if the tenant gives you a declaration that they meet certain conditions. The tenant must state that:

  1. They have made their best efforts to get governmental rental assistance;
  2. They earn less than $99,000 ($198,000 for joint filers);
  3. They used best efforts to make timely partial payments, if possible;
  4. They lost income, work, or wages, or have had extraordinary medical expenses; and
  5. Eviction will force them to become homeless or move in with others in overcrowded conditions.

Information regarding the tenant’s obligation to pay rent and fees and other landlord tenant actions that are permitted under the CDC Agency Order can be found here.

A tenant can raise the conditions stated in the CDC Order as a defense to a Failure to Pay Rent case until December 31, 2020, unless the Order is extended. If a tenant is successful in raising this defense, the court will determine the amount due for possession, but may reserve entry of judgment until the judgment is not prohibited by the CDC Order. Once the CDC Order expires, the court, without a request from any party, may enter judgment for possession. Landlords must continue to inform the court if payments are made while the case is pending, or judgment is reserved.

Where can I get help?

Mortgage Help

Homeowners may be eligible for a mortgage forbearance. This means mortgage payments may not be due for a brief period. Read more about mortgage forbearances and other resources at the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation’s webpage.

Legal Help

Talk with a lawyer for free at the Maryland Court Self-Help Center. Call 410-260-1392 or chat online.

Lawyers at the Help Center can give you advice about your housing case. They may also refer you to where you may find representation or rental assistance resources. The Maryland Court Help Center can help both tenants and non-business landlords. They cannot help you if you are already represented by a lawyer. Read more about the Help Centers here.

Do you want to hire a paid lawyer? Try calling a lawyer referral service in your area.

Do you need free or reduced fee legal representation? A list of providers is available at the People’s Law Library webpage.

Mediation

Mediation is a voluntary process through which people in conflict resolve the dispute with the help of a neutral 3rd party. Mediation is often successful at resolving disputes between landlords and tenants. Read general information about mediation here. Follow the links below to find a mediator