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COVID-19 and Landlord-Tenant Law

Currently, Maryland is in a state of emergency due to the outbreak of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. Renters who have lost their jobs or their income due to the pandemic are worried about what will happen if they cannot pay their rent and other bills. Landlords, too, want to know what responsibilities they have and how they will support their business.

Governor Hogan has issued two important orders:

  1. Nobody can be evicted during the statewide emergency;
  2. Utilities cannot terminate service or collect late fees during the statewide emergency.

The answers to more frequently asked legal questions for renters and landlords in Maryland are answered below. If you have a specific area of interest, the links below will take you to the topic you want to see:

Can I be Evicted for not Paying Rent in Maryland During the Coronavirus Outbreak?

There is no rent freeze in Maryland, which means that tenants still have to pay their rent. However, as long as a tenant can prove that they suffered a significant loss of income due to the coronavirus, they cannot be evicted during the state of emergency. Foreclosures on homes are also temporarily prohibited.

The catch is that evictions can proceed after the state of emergency is lifted. Additionally, the governor’s order did not prevent landlords from charging late fees for missed payments.

“Tenants who have lost their income due to the pandemic cannot be evicted from their apartments.”

If you have been laid off, your workplace is closed, or you have been told by a doctor or health worker to isolate you should file for unemployment benefits. With such a high volume of calls, the state is asking residents to stagger their calls, with last names A through F filing on Mondays, last names G through N filing on Tuesdays and last names O through Z filing on Wednesdays and all names on Thursday and Friday.

Self-employed people are also eligible for unemployment under the CARES Act. The Maryland application should be up sometime this week.

Homeowners with federally backed loans can have their payments deferred 180 days and can request another 180-day deferral after that. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been ordered not to foreclose and evict, and those homeowners can request a 12-month suspension of payments. Finally, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development mortgages and VA loans have mortgage relief programs as well.

You should also call your landlord, mortgage servicer, lender, or bank to discuss payment options.

More resources:

What Happens if I Can’t Pay my Utility Bills due to COVID-19?

Electricity, gas, sewage disposal, telephone, water, cable TV, and internet providers cannot cancel their services or charge late fees at all during the state of emergency.

Can I Submit a Maintenance Request During the COVID-19 Emergency?

Non-emergency maintenance should be suspended until after the pandemic improves. Many maintenance vendors, such as HVAC, electricians, and plumbers, are considered essential workers, meaning that these businesses may still be operating. The National Apartment Association discussed how to safely handle emergency maintenance requests in a webinar.

Can I Move into a New Apartment or Home During COVID-19?

In Maryland there is a ban on non-essential travel. However, there is no rule specifically banning moving during COVID-19. Additionally, moving companies in Maryland are largely still operating during the pandemic. Moving companies say they are practicing social distancing as much as possible during moves, wearing gloves, washing their hands, and disinfecting their equipment. If you hire movers, you can protect them by keeping your distance and not helping them with the move. You can also disinfect items and furniture before the movers arrive and after the move is completed. If you do not feel well, have symptoms, or have been diagnosed with the virus, you should postpone your move.

What Responsibility do Facilities have to Disinfect Common Areas During COVID-19?

The coronavirus spreads easily. National and state organizations all recommend disinfecting common areas and frequently used surfaces daily. Property owners and landlords should take cleaning seriously during the pandemic not only to protect their health and the health of others, but to protect their businesses from liability.

“Cleaning and disinfecting common areas along with frequent hand washing is essential to prevent the spread of viral infection.”

The CDC recommends cleaning frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, countertops, light switches, toilets, etc. with soap and water followed by a disinfectant. Surfaces like carpets and couches can be cleaned with the appropriate cleaners and disinfectant. Electronics should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s specifications or with alcohol wipes/spray. Finally, linens should be laundered with the warmest settings possible. Wearing gloves and gowns while cleaning and washing hands frequently is also recommended.

If a sick person used a common area, close it off and open windows to the outside. Either disinfect everything that person may have used or wait at least 7 days, after which point disinfecting is no longer necessary.

Is There Rent Control During the Coronavirus in Maryland?

Currently, there is no rent freeze in Maryland. There is, however, a ban on evictions.

Some municipalities have instituted rent freezes. For example, Washington D.C., New York, Oakland, and Los Angeles have to varying degrees prohibited landlords from increasing rent.

Is There Business Assistance for Landlords During COVID-19?

Maryland’s COVID-19 emergency relief fund for businesses application is now closed. See the below resources for additional funding assistance:

How will COVID-19 Impact Tenant-Landlord Court Operations?

Maryland’s eviction moratorium has halted all eviction matters that were pending in the District Court. New evictions and foreclosures cannot be brought either. Maryland courts are currently closed to the public, but most courthouses are operating with essential staff. With limited staff, they are focusing on hearing emergency proceedings such as bail review, bench warrants, and criminal arraignments. Essentially, tenant-landlord cases are on indefinite hold while the virus has the courts shut down.

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