landlord-tenant law in Annapolis MD

Can I Sue for Unpaid Rent After Evicting a Tenant?

Maryland law often seems like it’s on the tenant’s side more often than the landlord’s.

This can suggest that there have been or perhaps still are terrible property owners and property managers. Otherwise, why would there be so many specific regulations on the books to protect renters from unsafe living conditions, unreasonably high rent and extra fees, and abusive behavior?

The state’s Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s office has even published a brochure especially for renters, filled with several scenarios in which a bad landlord does things or threatens to take actions that they’re not legally supposed to, and what can be done about it. Maryland Legal Aid has issued a similar guide explaining what property owners can and shouldn’t do.

That isn’t to say, however, that bad tenants don’t exist, or that property owners lack power. In fact, housing laws have evolved to the point that landlords just need to follow certain legal protocol when dealing with problematic renters.

The fundamentals of the rental process haven’t changed. If a landlord decides that a tenant’s conduct effectively breaks a lease, then he or she has the right to take steps to evict the tenant. Likewise, if severe damage has occurred to the property, the landlord can use some or all of the damage deposit to pay for repairs.

But defining some of these specific circumstances, such as disruptive conduct, is where things can get tricky. Just as renters are encouraged to check with an attorney if they feel they’ve been treated unfairly, it is also recommended that a landlord seek legal counsel to make sure they’re following proper legal protocols.

The law offices of Matthew S. Evans III will be happy to provide legal advice for property owners, whether litigation is required, or steps can be taken to resolve matters before it gets to this point. Our trusted Maryland real estate attorneys are experienced with rental contracts, lease agreements, and related litigation at a state level plus municipalities such as Annapolis and Washington, D.C., where different local rules may apply.

The Eviction Process

Maryland has three main ways a renter can be evicted:

  • “Breach of lease” for conduct that’s not permitted such as illegal activity or extra roommates
  • “Holding over,” which means refusing to leave when a lease term ends
  • Failure to pay rent over a prolonged period of time

For an eviction to be successful, a landlord must request a court hearing to prove one or all of these conditions have been met. If a judge concurs that a violation or violations have occurred, the landlord can file a notice of eviction/warrant of restitution within five days. This requires arranging the services of a representative from the county sheriff’s office to remove the tenant or prevent them from returning.

More options

The act of evicting a particularly difficult tenant can be satisfying – you never have to interact with that person again, and it also can open the door for a potentially better tenant with more positive behavior that also pays their rent more reliably. However, some former tenants may still owe money, especially since rent can actually still be charged from the time a judgment is filed against them to when they actually leave the premises.

While it’s easy to reflexively want to say, “just keep it, provided you never bother me again,” due to all the legal hassle you’ve been through, a Maryland real estate attorney may assist you in recovering unpaid rent, interest, any related fees or even court costs.

This can take several forms.

  • Property owners can deduct any unpaid rent or other stated charges from the damage deposit before it’s returned.
  • A judge can authorize a financial judgment against the tenant, but the tenant needs to be properly served and advised to attend a hearing on this topic.

There’s no rush on seeking these funds either: the State of Maryland has a three-year statute of limitations for someone to pursue financial compensation for a broken contract.

Property owners who wish to discuss a challenging rental situation are encouraged to discuss with Matthew S. Evans III and his team. Contact us today for a consultation at (410) 626-6009.