It is common to hear about conditions in a rental home that are unsafe or pose a threat to the health of the tenants. Fortunately, in Maryland, rental properties, must maintain basic health and safety standards. However, most tenants have no idea what to do if conditions in their rental home become unsafe.
Is Your Rental Unsafe?
It is important to know what types of things a court will deem unsafe, this is not an exhaustive list and if you feel your rental is unsafe you should set up a consultation what a landlord-tenant attorney in your area. Common health and safety threats include:
No running water
Infestations of rodents or bugs (ex. rats, mice, bedbugs)
Fire Hazards such as inappropriate and exposed wiring
Your First Steps When You Notice An Unsafe Condition
Your first step should be to contact your landlord to make them aware of the situation. We recommend you do this in writing- either via email or text message in order to document that the landlord had notice of the problem and opportunity to fix it. You also need to document the problem itself. Most often this takes the form of photos and cellphone video. However, documentation is not limited to videos and photos. It can take many forms, such as mold testing, paint sampling. You should think outside of the box to show the situation in your home.
I Notified My Landlord of a Problem-What Now?
Hopefully, notifying your landlord of a potential problem will result in the issue being fixed, but in reality, you’re probably reading this because you notified your landlord of a problem and they did not resolve the issue. So what should you do now?
In Maryland, when a landlord fails to fix a problem that is a threat to human health and safety, the Court can choose to step in and intervene. This is done when the tenant (or their attorney) files a rent escrow action.
Typically, a court will set up a hearing to hear the tenant’s complaint and ensure the landlord has received notice of the problem. The Court will look at whether there is sufficient reason to believe that a threat to human health exists. If the Court believes there is, the Court will establish a rent escrow account for the tenant and set the case in for a second hearing. During the time between the first and second hearings, the tenants will pay their rent directly to the Court where it will be held in the rent escrow account. During this time, tenants do not pay rent to the landlord. It is important that the tenant continues to pay their rent to the court on time or the case will be dismissed.
What Happens at the Second Rent Escrow Hearing?
At the second rent escrow hearing the judge will determine what, if anything has been done to remedy the issue and whether a hazard still persists. The Court will also decide what to do with the funds in escrow: whether to return all or part to the tenant. If the problem persists, the judge may break the lease and prorate the last month’s rent so the tenant can move out without incurring a penalty.
Attorney’s fees may be available in rent escrow cases. If you have any questions about your living conditions about your living conditions, contact us at 301-531-4226.