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Maryland Landlord and Tenant Duties

Maryland Landlord Tenant Law 

West's Annotated Code of Maryland

Public Safety
Title 12. Building and Material Codes; Other Safety Provisions
Subtitle 2. Statewide Building and Housing Codes
§ 12-203. Minimum Livability Code

Local housing code required

(b) Each political subdivision shall adopt by regulation a local housing code that sets minimum property maintenance standards for housing in the subdivision.

Minimum Livability Code required

(a)     The Department shall adopt by regulation a Minimum Livability Code.

Applicability of Minimum Livability Code
(d)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, the Minimum Livability Code applies to residential structures used for human habitation.

(2) The Minimum Livability Code does not apply to:

(i) an owner-occupied housing unit;

(ii) any housing in a political subdivision that has adopted a local housing code that substantially conforms to the Minimum Livability Code; or

(iii) any housing exempted by the Department.

Contents of Minimum Livability Code

(e) The Minimum Livability Code shall:

(1) set minimum property standards for housing in the State;

(2) allow for exceptions and variations between political subdivisions:

(i) to reflect geographic differences; or

(ii) if the Department determines that unique local conditions justify exceptions or variations recommended by political subdivisions; and

(3) include minimum standards for:

(i) basic equipment and facilities used for light, ventilation, heat, and sanitation; and

(ii) safe and sanitary maintenance of residential structures and premises.

.06 Condemnation

D. Structure Unfit for Human Occupancy. A structure is unfit for human occupancy or use whenever the code official finds that it is unsanitary, vermin or rodent infested, contains filth or contamination, or lacks ventilation, illumination, sanitary or heating facilitites, or other essential equipment required by this Code.

Enforcement

Violation of Minimum Livability Code prohibited; penalties

(j)(1) A property owner may not willfully violate the Minimum Livability Code.

(2) A person who violates this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject for each violation to imprisonment not exceeding 3 months or a fine not exceeding $500 for each day the violation exists or both.

(3) A penalty imposed under this subsection is in addition to and not a substitute for any other penalty authorized under federal, State, or local law.

.11 Responsibilities of Persons

(C ) Sanitary Conditions

(1)     Cleaniness

(a)     the tenant shall be responsible for keeping that part of the structure or premises which the tenant occupies, controls, or uses in a clean and sanitary condition.

(b)     Each property owner of a structure containing two or more housing units shall maintain, in a clean and sanitary condition, the common areas of the structure and premises.

(2)     Disposal and Storage of Rubbish and Garbage. The tenant shall be responsible for the storage and disposal of rubbish and garbage in a clean and sanitary manner as may be required by applicable laws or ordinances.

(D) Extermination

(1) All Structures. If necessary, the property owner shall be responsible for extermination within the structure and on the premises before renting or leasing the structure.

(2) Single Occupancy. The tenant of a structure containing a single housing unit shall be responsible for the extermination of any insects, rodents, or other pests in the strucuture or the premises.

(3) Multiple Occupancy. Each property owners or operator of a structure containing two or more housing units shall be responsible for the extermination of any insects, rodents, or other pests in the structure or on the premises except where infestation within a housing unit is caused by a failure of the tenant to take reasonable action to prevent the infestation within the housing unit.

(E). Fire Safety. Responsibility for installing and maintaining in good working order any smoke detector installed pursuant to this Code shall be in accordance with the State first laws.

B. Unsafe Structure. An unsafe structure is one which all or part of it is found by the code officials to be dangerous to life, health, property, or the safety of its tenants by not providing minimum protection from fire or because it is so damaged, decayed, dilapidated, structurally unsafe, or of such faulty construction or unstable foundation that it is likely to partially or completely collapse.

Landlord-Tenant Laws (Maryland caselaw)

Tenant's Right of Possession and Right of Entry by Landlord

The landlord is required to assure that the tenant may have possession of the premises at the beginning of the lease term.

If the landlord fails to provide tenant with possession at the beginning of the term, tenant will not owe any rent until he is able to take possession. If tenant chooses, he may cancel the lease if he so notifies the landlord in writing before he is able to take possession of the premises. The landlord must then return to tenant any money or property given as security deposit, prepaid rent, or other deposit.

In either event, whether tenant terminates the lease or not, he may collect from the landlord any consequential (resulting) damages he actually suffered after he notified the landlord that he was unable to take possession.( However, the tenant must try to minimize his losses. See "Mitigation of Damages".) (Maryland Code, Real Property, Section 8-204).

Ordinary Wear and Tear

A lease provision that requires the tenant to "return the leased premises in good repair" at the end of the lease term does not require the tenant to build a new building or pay for a building that was destroyed without any fault or negligence on the part of the tenant. (Maryland Code, Real Property, Section 8-113)

However, the law imposes on a tenant the obligation to return the premises at the end of the tenancy in substantially the same condition as when he moved in. Also, the tenant is responsible for any damage caused by his negligence. But the tenant is not liable for damage caused by the elements or resulting from "ordinary wear and tear". The following interpretations of this phrase indicate how it is used:

"Even in the absence of an express covenant, the law imposes on a tenant the obligation to return the premises at the termination of the tenancy substantially in the same condition as when he received possession and to restore the leased property to the landlord at the end of the term unimpaired by the negligence of the tenant. A tenant, however, is not liable for damage to the premises ensuing from a reasonable use or for damage caused by the elements. Where the tenant has made unauthorized alterations in the premises, he must at the termination of the lease restore them to their former condition without expense to the landlord; and even where the landlord impliedly consented to alterations by the tenant, the tenant is not excused from leaving the premises in good order and condition, on termination of the lease." (C.J.S., Landlord and Tenant, Section 408)

Words and Phrases (West Publishing Co.), Volume 30, page 474, quotes from cases as follows:

"Ordinary wear and tear in lease requiring tenant to surrender furnishings in leased premises in condition received, 'ordinary wear and tear' excepted, means wear which property undergoes when tenant does nothing more than to come and go and perform acts usually incident to an ordinary way of life."  Tirrell v. Osborn, D.C. Mun. App., 55 A.2nd 725, 727.

"In general, the ordinary reasonable use and wear of property by a tenant has relation to the depreciation in condition of building or property which it undergoes during the tenant's occupation, when the tenant in the case of a residence, at least, does nothing in connection with the use more than to come and go and perform the acts usually incident to creating and maintaining conditions for living in the ordinary way."  Taylor v. Campbell, 108 N.Y.S. 399, 400, 123 App. Div. 698.

Special Issues for Subsidized and Public Housing Tenants

All of the Maryland rules governing landlord and tenant relations in privately owned rentals also apply to you and your housing unit if you are a section 8, HUD, or public housing tenant. However, there are some added protections that only apply to section 8, HUD, and public housing. The following tips will help you navigate many of these added safeguards.

Information to be Posted or Provided by the Landlord

The landlord of a residential rental property must include in the written lease OR on a posted sign conspicuously placed on the rental property, the following information: a) the name, address and phone number of the landlord; or b) the person, if any, who is authorized to accept notice or service of process on the landlord's behalf.

If the landlord fails to provide the information in this manner, then notice or service of process can be sent by the tenant to: a) the person to whom the rent is paid; b) the address where the rent is paid; or c) the address where the tax bill is sent. (Maryland Code, Real Property, Sec. 8-210)

Common Area Responsibility

The general rule in Maryland is that the landlord has a responsibility "to use reasonable diligence and ordinary care to keep the portion (of the premises) retained under his control in reasonably safe condition." Scott v. Watson, 278 Md. 160, 165 (1976). This rule applies to defects in the common areas and to criminal acts committed in the common areas under landlord's control.

In Scott v. Watson, the plaintiff's father was murdered in the underground parking garage of the apartment building where he was a tenant. The court stated that the landlord has a duty to "exercise reasonable care for the tenant's safety." Id. at 167. What is reasonable care depends on the circumstances, such as the landlord's knowledge of the extent of criminal activity on the premises. The court said that "if the landlord knows, or should know, of criminal activity against persons or property in the common areas, he then has a duty to take reasonable measures, in view of the existing circumstances, to eliminate the conditions contributing to the criminal activity." Id. at 169. The landlord would be held responsible if his negligent failure to take certain steps to protect the tenant's security "enhanced the likelihood of the particular criminal activity which occurred." Id.

Smoke Detectors and Sprinkler Systems

Smoke Detectors
General Requirements
Each sleeping area in a residential occupancy (includes all buildings designed to provide sleeping accommodations, such as 1 and 2-family dwellings, apartment buildings, hotels, motels, dormitories, rooming houses, etc.) must be provided with at least one approved smoke detector installed in a manner and location approved by the Maryland Fire Prevention Commission. The detector must provide an alarm suitable to warn the occupants.

Placement
For all new dwelling units for which a building construction permit is issued on or after January 1, 1989, and which have alternating current (AC) service, there must be at least one smoke detector on each level including the basement level, but excluding the attic. If two or more smoke detectors are required in the dwelling unit because of this provision, they must be of the type and installed in a way that activation of one causes activation of all of the other required detectors in the unit.

Battery and electric power
In all new dwelling units for which a building permit is issued on or after July 1, 1990 and which contain alternating current electrical service, all smoke detectors must be of the kind that operate both by battery and on an alternating current primary source of power.

Installation and Maintenance
In a 1, 2, or 3-family dwelling built before July 1, 1975, the occupant of each unit must equip the unit with at least one approved battery or AC primary electric power smoke detector. The occupant must also maintain the detector in good working order.

In all other rental occupancies, the landlord is responsible for installing the smoke detector and, upon notice in person or upon written notice by certified mail from the tenant, the landlord is responsible for repair or replacement of the detector. If tenant personally notifies landlord of a mechanical failure, landlord must give tenant a written receipt acknowledging the notification.

Tenant may not remove a smoke detector or make it inoperative.

Landlord may require a refundable deposit for the detector, not exceeding the value of the detector. This provision does not apply to hotels or motels.

Accommodation for hearing-impaired occupants
Where a deaf or hearing-impaired occupant has made a written request to the landlord, the landlord must provide a smoke detector which can emit a light signal that is approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory for electrical appliances, and is sufficient to warn the deaf or hearing-impaired person.

All hotels and motels must have at least one special smoke detector for the deaf or hearing-impaired for each 50 units or less. The proprietor may require a refundable deposit for a portable smoke detector which is not more than the value of the detector.

The proprietor of the hotel or motel must post a conspicuous sign at the registration desk or counter, stating that smoke detectors for the hearing-impaired are available.

Enforcement provision for dwellings built before July 1, 1975
Whenever a fire official investigates a fire in a 1, 2, or 3-family residential dwelling built before July 1, 1975 and finds that the required smoke detectors have not been installed, he will issue an order requiring the occupant to install detectors. Failure to comply with this order within 15 days of re-occupancy of the dwelling is punishable only by a fine not to exceed $50.00.

State approval for sale and installation
The sale and installation of smoke detection systems, including specialized detectors for the deaf and hearing-impaired, must be in accordance with the Maryland Fire Prevention Code and regulations. Every manufacturer commercially selling or offering for sale smoke detection systems in Maryland must get approval for each model from the State Fire Marshal.

Smoke detection systems may be used only for detection and signaling in the event of fire.

Sprinkler systems
Where approved by the Fire Prevention Commission, an approved automatic sprinkler system may be installed in place of a smoke detection system.

Penalties
A person who knowingly violates this law or any regulation promulgated by the State Fire Prevention Commission will be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned for not more than 10 days, or both. Each day that a violation continues after knowledge or official notice that it is a violation, is a separate offense.
(Maryland Code, Public Safety Article §9-102)

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