2013 Maryland Code
§ 8-208 - Written leases; supplementary rights afforded by local law or ordinance; prohibited provisions not enforceable; damages; severability

MD Real Prop Code § 8-208 (2013) What's This?


(a) (1) On or after October 1, 1999, any landlord who offers 5 or more dwelling units for rent in the State may not rent a residential dwelling unit without using a written lease.

(2) If a landlord fails to comply with paragraph (1) of this subsection, the term of the tenancy is presumed to be 1 year from the date of the tenant’s first occupancy unless the tenant elects to end the tenancy at an earlier date by giving 1 month’s written notice.

(b) A landlord who rents using a written lease shall provide, upon written request from any prospective applicant for a lease, a copy of the proposed form of lease in writing, complete in every material detail, except for the date, the name and address of the tenant, the designation of the premises, and the rental rate without requiring execution of the lease or any prior deposit.

(c) A lease shall include:

(1) A statement that the premises will be made available in a condition permitting habitation, with reasonable safety, if that is the agreement, or if that is not the agreement, a statement of the agreement concerning the condition of the premises; and

(2) The landlord’s and the tenant’s specific obligations as to heat, gas, electricity, water, and repair of the premises.

(d) A landlord may not use a lease or form of lease containing any provision that:

(1) Has the tenant authorize any person to confess judgment on a claim arising out of the lease;

(2) Has the tenant agree to waive or to forego any right or remedy provided by applicable law;

(3) (i) Provides for a penalty for the late payment of rent in excess of 5% of the amount of rent due for the rental period for which the payment was delinquent; or

(ii) In the case of leases under which the rent is paid in weekly rental installments, provides for a late penalty of more than $3 per week or a total of no more than $12 per month;

(4) Has the tenant waive the right to a jury trial;

(5) Has the tenant agree to a period required for landlord’s notice to quit which is less than that provided by applicable law; provided, however, that neither party is prohibited from agreeing to a longer notice period than that required by applicable law;

(6) Authorizes the landlord to take possession of the leased premises, or the tenant’s personal property unless the lease has been terminated by action of the parties or by operation of law, and the personal property has been abandoned by the tenant without the benefit of formal legal process;

(7) Is against public policy and void pursuant to § 8-105 of this title; or

(8) Permits a landlord to commence an eviction proceeding or issue a notice to quit solely as retaliation against any tenant for planning, organizing, or joining a tenant organization with the purpose of negotiating collectively with the landlord.

(e) (1) Except for a lease containing an automatic renewal period of 1 month or less, a lease that contains a provision calling for an automatic renewal of the lease term unless prior notice is given by the party or parties seeking to terminate the lease, shall have the provision distinctly set apart from any other provision of the lease and provide a space for the written acknowledgment of the tenant’s agreement to the automatic renewal provision.

(2) An automatic renewal provision that is not specifically accompanied by either the tenant’s initials, signature, or witnessed mark is unenforceable by the landlord.

(f) No provision of this section shall be deemed to be a bar to the applicability of supplementary rights afforded by any public local law enacted by the General Assembly or any ordinance or local law enacted by any municipality or political subdivision of this State; provided, however, that no such law can diminish or limit any right or remedy granted under the provisions of this section.

(g) (1) Any lease provision which is prohibited by terms of this section shall be unenforceable by the landlord.

(2) If the landlord includes in any lease a provision prohibited by this section or made unenforceable by § 8-105 or § 8-203 of this title, at any time subsequent to July 1, 1975, and tenders a lease containing such a provision or attempts to enforce or makes known to the tenant an intent to enforce any such provision, the tenant may recover any actual damages incurred as a reason thereof, including reasonable attorney’s fees.

(h) If any word, phrase, clause, sentence, or any part or parts of this section shall be held unconstitutional by any court of competent jurisdiction such unconstitutionality shall not affect the validity of the remaining parts of this section.

§ 8-208 - 1. Retaliatory actions.

(a) Prohibited evictions. --

(1) For any reason listed in paragraph (2) of this subsection, a landlord of any residential property may not:

(i) Bring or threaten to bring an action for possession against a tenant;

(ii) Arbitrarily increase the rent or decrease the services to which a tenant has been entitled; or

(iii) Terminate a periodic tenancy.

(2) A landlord may not take an action that is listed under paragraph (1) of this subsection for any of the following reasons:

(i) Because the tenant or the tenant's agent has provided written or actual notice of a good faith complaint about an alleged violation of the lease, violation of law, or condition on the leased premises that is a substantial threat to the health or safety of occupants to:

1. The landlord; or

2. Any public agency against the landlord;

(ii) Because the tenant or the tenant's agent has:

1. Filed a lawsuit against the landlord; or

2. Testified or participated in a lawsuit involving the landlord; or

(iii) Because the tenant has participated in any tenants' organization.

(b) "Retaliatory actions" defined. --

(1) A landlord's violation of subsection (a) of this section is a "retaliatory action".

(2) A tenant may raise a retaliatory action of a landlord:

(i) In defense to an action for possession; or

(ii) As an affirmative claim for damages resulting from a retaliatory action of a landlord occurring during a tenancy.

(c) Damages, attorney's fees, and costs. --

(1) If in any proceeding the court finds in favor of the tenant because the landlord engaged in a retaliatory action, the court may enter judgment against the landlord for damages not to exceed the equivalent of 3 months' rent, reasonable attorney fees, and court costs.

(2) If in any proceeding the court finds that a tenant's assertion of a retaliatory action was in bad faith or without substantial justification, the court may enter judgment against the tenant for damages not to exceed the equivalent of 3 months' rent, reasonable attorney fees, and court costs.

(d) Conditions for relief. -- The relief provided under this section is conditioned upon:

(1) The tenant being current on the rent due and owing to the landlord at the time of the alleged retaliatory action, unless the tenant withholds rent in accordance with the lease, § 8-211 of this subtitle, or a comparable local ordinance; and

(2) If the alleged retaliatory action is a landlord's termination of a periodic tenancy:

(i) In the case of tenancies measured by a period of one month or more, the court having not entered against the tenant more than 3 judgments of possession for rent due and unpaid in the 12-month period immediately prior to the initiation of the action by the tenant or by the landlord; or

(ii) In the case of tenancies requiring the weekly payment of rent, the court having not entered against the tenant more than 5 judgments of possession for rent due and unpaid in the 12-month period immediately prior to the initiation of the action by the tenant or by the landlord, or, if the tenant has lived on the premises 6 months or less, the court having not entered against the tenant 3 judgments of possession for rent due and unpaid.

(e) Actions not deemed "retaliatory actions". -- An action by a landlord may not be deemed to be retaliatory for purposes of this section if the alleged retaliatory action occurs more than 6 months after a tenant's action that is protected under subsection (a)(2) of this section.

(f) Rights not affected. -- As long as a landlord's termination of a tenancy is not the result of a retaliatory action, nothing in this section may be interpreted to alter the landlord's or the tenant's rights to terminate or not renew a tenancy.

(g) Effect of ordinance comparable in subject matter. -- If any county has enacted or enacts an ordinance comparable in subject matter to this section, this section shall supersede the provisions of the ordinance to the extent that the ordinance provides less protection to a tenant.

§ 8-208 - 2. Retaliatory actions for informing landlord of lead poisoning hazards

(a) Prohibited. -- Notwithstanding the provisions of § 8-208.1 of this subtitle, a landlord of real property subject to the provisions of Title 6, Subtitle 8 of the Environment Article may not evict or take any other retaliatory action against a tenant primarily as a result of the tenant providing information to the landlord under Title 6, Subtitle 8 of the Environment Article.

(b) Retaliatory actions. -- For purposes of this section, a retaliatory action includes:

(1) An arbitrary refusal to renew a lease;

(2) Termination of a tenancy;

(3) An arbitrary rent increase or decrease in services to which the tenant is entitled; or

(4) Any form of constructive eviction.

(c) Remedies. -- A tenant subject to an eviction or retaliatory action under this section is entitled to the relief, and is eligible for reasonable attorney's fees and costs, authorized under § 8-208.1 of this subtitle.

(d) Breach of lease provisions. -- Nothing in this section may be interpreted to alter the landlord's or the tenant's rights arising from a breach of any provision of a lease.

§ 8-208 - 3. Landlord to maintain record of rent paid

Every landlord shall maintain a records system showing the dates and amounts of rent paid to the landlord by the tenant or tenants and showing also the fact that a receipt of some form was given to each tenant for each cash payment of rent.

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