Maryland law authorizes summary ejectment proceedings for use when a landlord wants to quickly recover possession of rental property because the tenant failed to pay rent. The court provides pre-printed forms that must be completed and filed. The applicable form is Form DC-CV-082 (Failure to Pay Rent – Landlord’s Complaint for Repossession of Rented Property). The process offers the landlord a relatively quick and usually inexpensive tool for removing a tenant who has not paid rent. Depending on the county, the time period from filing to eviction takes approximately 2-4 months. Real Property § 8-401.
State law does not require written notice to quit as a prerequisite to filing an eviction for failure to pay rent. However, it is good practice to always check the lease and county laws to determine whether notice is otherwise required. Real Property § 8-401
b. The Complaint
The complaint should be completed in a manner that accurately describes the rental property, including space or unit number or other information that specifically identifies the portion of the building leased by the tenant. Failure to do so may delay eviction. If the sheriff cannot readily identify the rental property for which judgment was issued, an amendment of the judgment may be required to clearly identify the property.
If the complaint is for a residential property which is required to be licensed as a rental, the complaint must include certification that the rental property is licensed. See McDaniel v. Baranowski, 419 Md. 560, 587 (2011). Some counties will accept the complaint based on a showing that the Landlord has applied for the license. In this situation, a tenant may use the landlord’s application status as a defense or to later void the judgment for possession.
If the rental was built before 1978, properties must be properly registered or exempted pursuant to Title 6, Subtitle 8, of the Environment Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, which was enacted to reduce the incidence of lead poisoning while maintaining affordable rental housing. Certification of registration or exemption must be included in the complaint.
The complaint should state the amount of rent and late fees due through the court date. If requested, the court may also award rent and late fees due through the date of trial. For a commercial tenant, the rent amount may include other charges characterized in the lease as rent, such as maintenance so long as the charge can be fairly attributed to the tenant’s use, occupancy, and enjoyment of the property. See Shum v. Gaudreau, 317 Md 49 (1989). See also Law Offices of Taiwo Agbaje, P.C. v. JLH Properties, II, LLC, 169 Md. App. 355 (2009) (where the court held that attorneys’ fees are not rent for purposes of a failure to pay rent action pursuant to Real Property § 8-401).
Since the landlord-tenant court has exclusive jurisdiction over for failure to pay rent eviction actions, there is not a cap on the amount of rent that can be claimed.
The failure to pay rent complaint must name the landlord or the landlord's duly qualified agent as the plaintiff. However, the complaint may be signed and filed by the landlord’s attorney, the landlord, or the landlord’s duly qualified agent. The complaint is filed under oath or affirmation, and as a result, supporting documents are not required at filing. Supporting documents should be brought to court on the hearing date.
c. Court, Trial and Appeal
The trial date will typically be issued at the time the complaint is filed. At present, contrary to the timeline for trial set forth in the statute, some jurisdictions set the trial date for three to four weeks after the filing date of the complaint. The actual time period varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but is usually 3-5 weeks after the filing date. Real Property § 8-401.
At trial, the court will hear testimony from both parties. The landlord should always have a copy of the lease and an account statement that accurately reflects all payments received and charges. The statement should go back at least 12 months or as long as there was a past due balance, whichever is longer. This usually suffices as proof of the amount owed. Inaccurate or incomplete landlord records will usually be held against the landlord.
The court will make a factual determination of the amount of rent that is past due, but the determination will usually be solely for the purpose of determining the amount that the tenant must pay to avoid eviction. If personal service is obtained on the defendant in the manner required for an action for damages in tort or contract, a judge may award a money judgment in addition to a judgment for possession. However, whether or not to award a money judgment is within the court’s discretion. If a judgment is obtained, whether for money, possession, or both, the court will also award the landlord its costs for the proceedings, which can include filing and service of process fees.
The tenant and the landlord may appeal from the judgment of the District Court to the circuit court for any county at any time within four (4) days from the rendition of the judgment. For a tenant appeal, the tenant may delay eviction by delivering a bond to the court in the amount of all costs and damages mentioned in the judgment. Real Property § 8-401(f).
d. Eviction and Petition for Warrant of Restitution
Once a landlord is awarded possession, eviction of a residential tenant (including lockout) cannot occur until the court orders the sheriff to proceed with eviction. The court will not issue an order for the sheriff to proceed with eviction until the landlord files Form DC/CV 81 (Petition for Warrant of Restitution). Once issued, the warrant identifies the rental property for the sheriff, and if applicable, informs the sheriff of the amount of rent that must be paid in order for the eviction to be cancelled. Real Property § 8-401(d).
Due to the four day appeal period that is available to tenants, the Petition for Warrant of Restitution cannot be filed prior to the 5th day after the date judgment was entered. The Petition for Warrant of Restitution must be filed within 60 days from the later of the date of judgment or any stay of execution. Failure to do so will result in the judgment being stricken. Furthermore, if the judgment for possession has not been executed within 60 days after the court issues the order for the warrant, the warrant shall expire and the judgment for possession will be stricken. Real Property §8-401(f).
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