Consumer Publications List
Eviction: Get the
landlord says he's going to evict me tomorrow if I don't pay the rent...Can he
do that? What can I do? Where will I go?"
The prospect of
being forced out of your home and having your belongings put on the street is
frightening. However, it is important to understand what an eviction is (and is
not) and what a landlord can and cannot do.
Eviction is a legal
procedure. The landlord can't just tell you that you have to move or throw out
your belongings. To evict you, a landlord must go to district court to get a
judgment against you. If he gets one, the court will issue an order of eviction
and a sheriff will make you leave the home. A landlord who moves a tenant's
belongings out of the home, changes the locks, or cuts off utilities without a
court order may be criminally prosecuted and liable for damages. If this
happens, tenants should call the police and an attorney or legal services
A "notice to
vacate" from your landlord is not a court order. This is the written notice that
a landlord must give you at least one month before your lease ends, if he or she
wants you to move out at the end of the lease. If you do not move out, your
landlord can go to court to try to evict you.
A landlord cannot
evict you simply because you have filed a complaint or a lawsuit against him or
her or have joined a tenant's association. This is called a "retaliatory
eviction," and you may be able to stop an eviction by showing the court that
your landlord is evicting you for one of these reasons.
can evict you for:
Never try to force
a landlord to make repairs to your home by withholding the rent. The landlord
can evict you for non-payment of rent. Instead, go to your district court and
ask to file a rent escrow complaint. A judge may allow you to pay your rent into
court if your landlord fails to repair serious or dangerous defects, such as a
lack of adequate heat or a condition that presents a fire hazard. The judge may
return the money to you as compensation or appoint an administrator to ensure
that the repairs are made.
In addition, the
state's attorney, the county attorney, or community associations may bring an
eviction action against tenants involved in illegal drug activities.
If your landlord
begins an eviction proceeding, you will receive an official summons to attend a
hearing. The summons may be served on you in person, but most often it is mailed
and/or posted on the rental property. Don't ignore it. Go to the hearing
and be on time! If you don't show up the landlord will probably win.
The hearing gives
you the chance to tell your side of the story. For example, you may be able to
prove that you did pay the rent, or that you tried to pay the rent but the
landlord wouldn't accept it, or that the landlord didn't give you a month's
written notice that you had violated your lease and had to move out.
If the judge finds
the landlord's case more convincing, he or she will rule in favor of the
landlord. Within five working days, the landlord can file for a court order for
the eviction, called a "warrant of restitution," and arrange for a sheriff to
oversee the eviction.
You may appeal an
eviction judgment. The appeal must be made within four days of the date of
judgment in non-payment of rent cases and 10 days in breach of lease or holding
over cases. You may have to post a bond to cover the rent while waiting for the
circuit court to decide the appeal.
On the date of an
eviction, the sheriff will come to the rental unit to order the tenant and
everyone inside to leave. The landlord or the landlord's employees can then
remove all property from the unit and put it on the public right-of-way while
the sheriff supervises. Once the property is moved from the unit, it is the
Neighborhoods, Inc. offers information to tenants (and landlords) statewide
about their rights and responsibilities in eviction: toll-free (800) 487-6007.
Residents of Baltimore can walk in for help and advice at the Public Justice
Center's Tenant Advocacy Project, at 501 E. Fayette Street, Room 207.
You may wish to
have a lawyer help you during an eviction process. The Legal Aid Bureau, Inc.
offers free legal services to people with limited incomes. To find the office
nearest you, call (410) 539-5340.
If an eviction
would leave you homeless, you may be eligible for help from an eviction
prevention program offered by a non-profit housing assistance group or your
local government. One such program is offered by Baltimore City's Department of
Social Services: (410) 878-8650.
Get a copy of the
Attorney General's 16-page booklet "Landlords and Tenants: Tips on Avoiding
Disputes" by calling (410) 576-6500.
Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection
DivisionConsumer hotline: (410) 528-8662 or 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free
200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202
410-576-6300 / 1-888-743-0023 toll-free / TDD: 410-576-6372