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Landlord Tenant Court and Eviction Cases in Maryland

November 6, 2022

Several new laws took effect on October 1, 2022 that may affect the information on this page. See Senate Bill 6, Senate Bill 563, and Senate Bill 384. This page will be updated.


This article concerns a landlord evicting a tenant for failing to pay rent.

If rent is late, a landlord may start the eviction process right way. The process for evictions and rent court is as follows:

  1. The landlord must provide written notice to the tenant that states the tenant has 10 days after receiving the notice to pay the rent due.
  2. If the tenant does not pay the money owed within 10 days of receiving the landlord's written notice, then the landlord files a complaint.
  3. Next, the District Court issues a summons to the tenant to notify the tenant about the trial.
  4. Next, there is a trial where the tenant may defend themselves.

If the court rules in favor of the landlord, then the landlord can file a warrant of restitution to arrange a sheriff to supervise the eviction. A tenant may "pay to stay" at any time prior to eviction by the sheriff, with some exceptions. At the eviction, the sheriff will order the tenant and all others inside to leave. The sheriff will also remove the tenant's personal possessions.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 8-401

No Eviction Without Court Order

If a tenant fails to pay the rent on time, the landlord may ask the court to approve the tenant's eviction. That means that a landlord cannot lock a tenant out or force a tenant out by turning off the heat, water, or electricity. If a landlord takes one of these actions without a court order, a tenant can call the police and an attorney or a legal services organization. Similarly, a landlord cannot use eviction to retaliate for filing a complaint or lawsuit.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property §§ 8-208.1 and 8-216

Written Notice to Tenant

Before a landlord can file a complaint for nonpayment of rent, the landlord must provide the tenant with written notice of the landlord's intent to file a complaint for failure to pay rent. The notice must tell the tenant how much rent is due and give tenants 10 days to pay the amount due. Landlords should use the Notice of Intent to File a Complaint for Summary Ejectment (Failure to Pay Rent) (DC-CV-115) form.

Notice to the tenant occurs when the landlord's written notice is: sent by first-class mail with a certificate of mailing; affixed to the door of the premises; OR if elected by the tenant, sent by electronic delivery (email, text message, or electronic tenant portal).

Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 8-401

Landlord May File a Complaint

To evict a tenant a landlord must file a complaint under oath in District Court using a "failure to pay rent" form. This form:

  1. describes the property;
  2. names each tenant or subtenant;
  3. states the rent and late fees less utilities or security deposit paid;
  4. requests repossession;
  5. if applicable, stating that, to the best of landlord's knowledge, the tenant is deceased, intestate, and without next of kin;
  6. for rental unit properties built before 1978 states that the property was registered and renewed the property under Environment §§ 6-811, 6-812 and provides inspection certificate number (pertaining to lead paint - a landlord cannot file for failure to pay rent on an unregistered or unrenewed property);
  7. states the rent due each pay period, the day rent is due, and the late fees; and
  8. states that the date that the landlord provided the required notice to the tenant.

A sample form is available on the Maryland Courts website. Note that this form cannot be completed online.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 8-401

Notice of the Trial to the Tenant

The tenant should receive a "summary ejectment proceeding" within three days from when the complaint was filed. One copy will be sent by mail and a yellow form copy is posted on the door to the home. The summons may also be served by personal service (learn more about service of process). The "summary ejectment proceeding" notice will state when the tenant is due in court for a trial. It may be as soon as five days after the complaint was filed. The trial date and time are on the upper right-hand corner of the form. At any time before or at trial, the tenant may make payments to the landlord.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 8-401

The Day of the Trial

If a tenant is challenging the complaint, the tenant should go to the hearing, be on time, and be in the courtroom when the docket begins. The tenant should bring documents and evidence to support their arguments against the landlord's complaint. These documents may include the claims including the lease, accounting records, cancelled checks, photographs, etc. Learn more about preparing your case.

If the tenant does not appear, the landlord will probably win. If the landlord does not appear, the ejection action will likely be dismissed.

A tenant may see a representative from the landlord at the courthouse on the day of the hearing. The tenant may choose to enter an agreement to settle the case through a payment plan or other agreement with the landlord's representative. However, the tenant is not required to reach an agreement with the landlord. Tenants have a right to defend themselves in District Court by presenting evidence and introducing witnesses. Tenants can, for example, prove that they did pay the rent, or that they tried to pay the rent but the landlord would not accept it.

Defense for Dangerous Defect of the Property - Rent Escrow

One situation where the tenant may be allowed to stay in their home is if a landlord has failed to repair a dangerous condition. If a tenant gave a landlord notice of a safety problem over a month before the hearing, and the landlord did not fix the problem, then the tenant may argue that the tenant does not need to pay the landlord rent. Examples of safety problems include no heat, broken toilets, rats or mice, major problems with walls, floors or ceilings, lead paint, or fire hazards. Tenants may keep back-rent, and defend themselves based on the safety violation. If the Court agrees that the home poses a serious threat to the tenant's safety, the tenant will pay the rent to the Court into an "escrow account" until the dispute is resolved. The legal action tenant may bring outside of an eviction case is an action of rent escrow. Learn more about rent escrow.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 8-211

Defense for Retaliatory Eviction

Another defense is when the tenant can show that the landlord is evicting the tenant to retaliate for filing a complaint or lawsuit or joining a tenant organization. If proven (and if a tenant is current on the rent due), a tenant may receive damages up to 3 months rent, reasonable attorney fees, and court costs. Learn more about retaliatory evictions.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 8-208.1

Judgment and Appeal

At the close of the trial, if the Judge finds the tenant has not paid the rent or if the tenant does not appear, then the court will decide in favor of the landlord. The court will enter a judgment in the amount of rent and late fee and costs of the lawsuit.

A tenant or landlord may appeal the court order within four days after it has been issued. If a tenant appeals, the tenant must post a bond.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 8-401

Warrant of Restitution

If the Court finds in the landlord's favor, the tenant then has 4 days to leave. Be sure to read the court order carefully. If the tenant has a doctor's note saying that it would be dangerous to leave because of a medical condition, the tenant can have up to 15 days to leave.

Note: You may want to check your county code or municipal code to see if there are additional local protections. Learn more about local laws.

If the tenant does not leave, then the landlord can seek a "warrant of restitution." This allows the landlord to make a plan with the constable or sheriff to evict the tenant and remove the tenant's possessions. A landlord must request a warrant of restitution within 60 days of the judgment. If the landlord waits longer, the judgment will expire.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 8-401

Right to Redeem (Pay to Stay)

The tenant may pay the landlord or landlord's agent at any time before the eviction occurs (called the "right to redeem the premises"). The tenant can pay by cash, a certified check, or money order all past due rent and late fees, plus court costs and fees. However, the tenant cannot redeem if the tenant has 3 or more rent judgments against the tenant in the 12 months before the eviction action (4 or more in Baltimore City).

Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 8-401

Eviction by Sheriff

The landlord cannot evict the tenant until the constable or sheriff is present to allow the landlord to do so. A copy of the "warrant of restitution" is sent to the tenant warning that the tenant may be evicted. The time and date of the eviction is not listed on the warrant of restitution. The tenant can call the constable or sheriff's office with the case number to ask when the eviction will take place. In extreme weather conditions, the court may delay evictions on a day-by-day basis. There may be local laws related to evictions and weather conditions that may apply. (Learn more about local laws.) If the landlord does not evict the tenant within 60 days from the warrant of restitution, then the warrant expires.

Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 8-401

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