Are we finally finished with COVID? What has changed in rental legislation since the pandemic has begun to wind down? Today we explore the rental legislation introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, that has expired and that which continues on.
Let’s start by taking a look at emergency orders in Maryland that have expired as COVID has wound down. The first is Marylands’ emergency eviction prevention. On March 16th, 2020, governer Larry Hogan signed an executive order stating that courts could not give a judgment for repossession of residential housing if the tenant could demonstrate a substantial loss of income due to COIVD-19. This order expired on August 15th, 2021, after which, courts can once again order evictions regardless of the tenants’ income status.
Quick sidebar, this was written in May of 2022. At this time, the Baltimore city district court tells us that failure to pay rent court hearings are being scheduled as far as six months out from the time of filing. After a warrant of restitution is issued, the sheriff is booked out for about four weeks. To speed up the process of moving a tenant out, a number of our landlord clients have had success in offering cash for keys. Give us a call for more information on how this works.
Going on, the second expired order addresses landlord-tenant peace renewals in Baltimore city and Council Bill 21-031. This bill went into effect on July 20th, 2021. It states that landlords could only cancel lease renewal for a substantial breach of lease and in this bill, a substantial breach of the lease did not include failure to pay rent. This means a landlord could not terminate a lease solely because the tenant was not paying rent. This bill expired on January 1st, 2022 and the law reverts back to landlords being able to cancel lease renewals for any reason, including non-payment of rent.
Now, let’s look at some legislation passed during COVID that carries forward. First, Maryland House Bill 18. This Bill has two parts, first on notice for failure to pay rent. Landlords must provide written notice to a tenant of their intent to file for failure to pay rent 10 days before filing the notice with the court. The tenant has the opportunity to cure the default by paying the rent within this 10-day period. Beginning on the 11th day, a landlord can charge a fee of one percent a day, up to a maximum of five percent. With a tenant’s consent, a notice may also be sent via email, text, or other electronic means. The Maryland District Court provides a notice form on its website which can be found at courts.md.us/district/forms. The second part of this Bill says that certain tenants may be eligible for an eviction defense program and establish access to the council and eviction task force. This task force recently received two years of funding.
The second bill that carries forward is Maryland Senate Bill 401 on non-renewal time frames. This law extends the notice period for non-renewals. For month-to-month leases, the parties must give 60 days’ notice to terminate. For year-to-year leases, the parties must give 90 days’ notice to terminate.
The third bill that carries forwards is Maryland House Bill 861 which addresses reusable tenant screening reports. Reusable tenant screening reports have become common with sites like Zillow and Trulia, where a tenant can complete an application through the site and send it to multiple landlords when they inquire about their properties. A landlord that accepts reusable reports cannot charge any additional application fees. A landlord can require that a tenant certifies that there have been no material changes to their application since the report was generated. A landlord that declines reusable reports must provide notice that they do not accept them. This notice can be posted on the rental listing itself, on the home page of their website, in the online rental application, or by other reasonable means to potential tenants.
Questions? Reach Out!
As laws pertaining to COVID-19 legislation continue to evolve over time be sure to stay on top of the changes with Ben Frederick Realty, stay tuned for more updates as we will be sure to keep you informed! Contact us today with any questions!