Legal Services for Maryland Landlords

Maryland’s patchwork of real estate laws can be confusing for landlords. For example, in Montgomery County, you can’t list your home for rent on the online booking site Airbnb, unless you allow rentals of only one month or longer, or if you’re licensed as a bed-and-breakfast. But in Baltimore County, it’s legal to list your home on Airbnb.

Whether you lease your home as a vacation property, manage an apartment complex with hundreds of tenants, or have only commercial tenants, you may encounter a number of legal challenges as a landlord. Thienel & Lusk, LLC, provides the legal guidance you need to operate a successful enterprise – from drafting legal documents to representing you in court, should litigation become necessary. Contact us today to schedule your consultation: 443-535-9715.

Commercial Landlord Services

Commercial landlords often need legal advice about which type of lease they should use for their properties. Depending on how commercial leases are structured, tenants may be responsible for some or all of the costs of occupancy, such as maintenance, property taxes, and utilities.

A legally sound commercial lease should account for any changes that may occur within a tenant business, such as transfer of ownership. The lease should also define how the property is to be used, to ensure a commercial client refrains from engaging in activity harmful to the property or to other tenants of the same facility.

In short, there’s no standard commercial lease. Each document must be created to apply to specific rental agreements, so commercial landlords can protect themselves against loss and liability.

Landlord-Tenant Disputes

Maryland law provides many protections for tenants, so even when a tenant stops paying rent and refuses to cooperate with you, you can’t simply lock them out of your rental property. To start the eviction process, you first must petition the court for a hearing, which the tenant may attend to explain their reason for non-payment. Even if the judge sides with you, you’ll have to wait four business days to give the tenant an opportunity to pay the rent, prior to filing a Warrant of Restitution, which begins the eviction process.

Other types of landlord-tenant disputes may involve:

  • Maintenance/repair issues – Tenants can’t withhold rent to force a landlord to make repairs, but they can petition the court for a rent escrow account. If the court grants that petition, the tenant pays rent into the escrow account, where it remains until the landlord makes repairs.
  • Discrimination claims – A person who feels they have been subject to discrimination, either in their search for a rental property or as a tenant, may file a federal complaint and/or a lawsuit in civil court. The penalty for discrimination is up to $10,000 for a first offense.
  • Lease language – Occasionally, disputes arise because the language of a lease is either unclear or fails to address a specific situation.

Compliance Concerns

Landlords must ensure that their processes and the properties they own or manage are in compliance with local and federal laws. For example, landlords must ensure that any public buildings they own – such as those leased by retailers – are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is not the tenant’s responsibility to ensure the building is ADA-compliant.

For any housing built before 1978, landlords must comply with Environmental Protection Agency rules about lead-based paint disclosure. The landlord is required to provide tenants with a specific pamphlet about lead-based paint before entering a lease agreement, include a lead disclosure in the lease (which must be kept on file for at least three years), and inform potential tenants of known lead-based paint on the property.

With the number of county, city, state, and federal laws that apply to rental agreements and properties, landlords can easily make a compliance mistake, the consequences of which may include significant fines.

Guidance on Finding Reliable Tenants

Every landlord wants a reliable tenant – ideally one who’s planning to stay in the rental property for more than a year. That’s why landlords screen tenants, verifying income, credit, and previous rental history. For commercial clients, landlords may also ask to see a business plan, to get a sense of whether the business is going to be successful.

In the screening process, landlords must apply the same qualifying standards to all clients. If two people apply for the same apartment, and a landlord runs a credit check on one but not the other, the applicant subjected to the credit check could file a claim of discrimination.

Thienel & Lusk, LLC, has helped many landlords institute policies and documentation that shield them from legal action. Partner Rebekah Damen Lusk, who leads our Landlord/Tenant practice, is a landlord and business owner, so she has a keen understanding of issues facing landlords.

Protect your property and your business by getting legal advice from our experienced Maryland landlord law attorneys. Call us at 443-535-9715, or fill out our online form, to schedule your consultation.

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