Failing to pay rent is a common reason for a landlord to evict a tenant. In Maryland, a landlord can begin the eviction process as soon as a tenant fails to pay rent when it is due.
Rent is almost always due on the first day of every month, and the landlord is not required to give the tenant any kind of grace period before charging a late fee or beginning eviction proceedings. The tenant may think that if the first of the month falls on a weekend or holiday, then rent is due the following business day. However, this is not the case. Rent is due on the first, regardless of the day.
It is important to note, however, that the landlord and the tenant can agree to different payment terms within the lease. For example, they could agree that although rent is due on the first, the landlord will not begin charging late fees for a specified number of days after the due date. Whatever the agreement, it must be in writing within the lease. Then, the landlord and tenant are both required to follow the lease terms regarding payment of rent .
If a tenant fails to pay rent when it is due, a landlord can immediately begin the eviction process. Unlike most states, Maryland law does not require the landlord to give the tenant any kind of notice before filing an eviction lawsuit with the court. Unless the lease says otherwise, the first notice that the tenant receives of the upcoming eviction is likely to be the filed court documents (see Md. Code Ann. [Real Prop.] § 8-401).
The tenant can still stop the eviction, though, by paying rent in full, along with any late fees and court costs, by the day of the trial or hearing before the judge. As long as the tenant pays rent in full before the judge makes a final decision regarding the eviction, the eviction will not proceed (see Md. Code Ann. [Real Prop.] § 8-401(c)(5)).
A landlord will start the eviction lawsuit by filing a complaint in the district court of the county where the rental property is located. The complaint must include the details of the tenancy and the reasons for the eviction, including how much rent is due and owing. The district court will issue a summons to the tenant, informing the tenant of the eviction case and the date for the trial or hearing before a judge. If the landlord is successful, the tenant will have four days to move out of the rental unit after the trial has ended. If the tenant does not move out of the rental unit, then the court will issue a warrant of restitution, which allows a sheriff or constable to remove the tenant and the tenant’s belongings from the rental unit (see Md. Code Ann. [Real Prop.] § 8-401).
A sample complaint, also referred to as a failure to pay rent form, can be found online through the Maryland court system.
It is illegal for a landlord to attempt to remove a tenant without having a judgment from the court allowing the eviction to occur. This means a landlord cannot force a tenant out of the rental unit by using threats or coercion, changing the locks on the doors or windows, or shutting off the utilities to the rental unit (see In re Promower, Inc., v. Scuderi, et al., 56 B.R. 619 (U.S. Bankruptcy Court, D. Maryland, 1986)). This type of action is often referred to as a “self-help” eviction, and a tenant can sue a landlord for damages for attempting it. For more information on “self-help” evictions, see the Nolo article Illegal Eviction Procedures in Maryland.
The Maryland court system provides online legal help and has a section devoted to housing issues. Maryland Legal Aid has also published several brochures on housing issues that can be helpful for landlords and tenants alike.
Nolo also has other very helpful articles on landlord-tenant relations in Maryland, including tenant defenses to evictions in Maryland. The Maryland charts in the State Landlord-Tenant Laws section of the Nolo website also have useful information. For more eviction articles, see Nolo’s section on Evicting a Tenant or Ending a Lease.