Topics on this page:
- What is a lease?
- The Lease Application
- Penalties for Including a Prohibited Provision
- Automatic Renewal Provisions for Periods of More Than One Month
- Local Laws
- Late Payment of Rent: Penalties
- Special Provisions for Landlords with Five or More Units Within the State
- Required Provisions
"Lease" means any oral or written agreement, express or implied, creating a landlord-tenant relationship, including any sublease and any further sublease. Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 1-101(h)
- A lease for a term of 1 year or less is valid whether it is written or oral, but any lease for more than 1 year must be in writing and signed by the person creating it if it is to be enforceable. Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property §§ 5-101 and 5-102
- A landlord who rents using a written lease must upon written request by an applicant, provide a copy of the proposed lease, complete in all important details except the date, rental rate, designation of the premises, and name and address of tenant. Landlord must provide this copy without requiring a deposit or actual execution of the lease.
- In any residential lease it is prohibited for the landlord to ask tenant to authorize any other person to confess judgment on a claim arising from the lease; to ask tenant to agree to waive any right or remedy provided by law; to ask tenant to pay a late fee penalty which is greater than 5% of the amount of rent due for the period for which payment is late. (However, where rent is paid in weekly installments, a penalty of $3 may be charged for each late payment, up to a maximum of $12 per month even if this exceeds the 5% limit on late fee charges.) (This provision is highlighted in H. below.) If the landlord includes such a provision, the landlord may be unable to collect any late fee if the lease provision exceeds the amount allowed by law; to ask tenant to waive his right to jury trial; to ask tenant to agree to accept a shorter period for notice to quit than that provided by law. (However, both parties may agree to a longer period, so long as the tenant is not required to give more notice than the landlord must give.);
- For landlord to take possession of the premises or tenant's property without legal process, unless the lease has been terminated by the parties or by action of law, and the tenant has abandoned his personal property there; or to include any provision which is against public policy and void under Sec. 8-105 (see below) Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 8-208
Each lease application must include a statement which explains the liabilities tenant incurs upon signing the application; and the following Code provisions: 1) If landlord requires from prospective tenant any fees other than a security deposit, and those fees exceed $25, landlord must return the fees no later than 15 days after the date of occupancy, or no later than 15 days after written communication by either landlord or tenant to the other that no tenancy will occur. If landlord does not comply, he is liable for twice the amount of the fees; and 2) landlord may retain the amount actually expended for a credit check or for other expenses arising out of the application.
This section applies only to landlords who offer 5 or more rental units on one parcel of property or at one location. It does not apply to seasonal rentals or condominium rentals.
Any lease provision which is prohibited by law cannot be enforced by the landlord. In addition, if a landlord includes in a lease a provision prohibited by section 8-208 or a provision made unenforceable by section 8-105 (see G. below) or by section 8-203 (see Security Deposits), and offers the lease, or attempts to enforce, or makes known to tenant his intent to enforce any such provision, tenant may recover any actual damages he incurs because of it, including reasonable attorneys' fees.
Where a lease provides for automatic renewal of the lease unless prior notice is given by the party seeking to terminate the lease, that renewal provision must be distinctly set apart from the other provisions of the lease, and space must be provided for tenant's written acknowledgment of that provision. Without tenant's signature, initials or witnessed mark, the landlord may not enforce the automatic renewal clause. The validity of the rest of the lease is not affected by the absence of tenant's acknowledgment of the automatic renewal clause.
This provision applies only to automatic renewal periods of more than one month.
Local laws may supplement but may not diminish any right or remedy granted by section 8-208.
Landlord cannot shield himself from liability where the effect of a lease provision would shield a landlord from liability to a tenant or other person for any injury or damage caused by negligence, fault, omission, etc., of the landlord relating to any part of the leased premises not within the exclusive control of the tenant, that lease provision is against public policy and is void.
NOTE: Such "exculpatory" clauses are still found in many leases, and while not enforceable in court, could lead the tenant to think that the landlord is not liable for injury or damage when in fact the landlord may be liable.
The penalty for late payment of rent may be no more than 5% of the amount of rent due for the period for which payment is late. However, where rent is paid in weekly installments, landlord may charge $3 for each late payment up to a maximum of $12 per tenant per month even if it exceeds the 5% limit. Landlord cannot collect any late fee if the lease provision specifies a penalty that exceeds the amount allowed by law. Also, if landlord includes a prohibited provision in the lease, or attempts to enforce or make known to tenant his intent to enforce such a provision, tenant may recover actual damages incurred, including attorneys' fees.
Landlords who own five or more rental units in the State must use a written lease. Failure of the landlord to use a written lease results in the presumption of a one-year tenancy from the date of the tenant's first occupancy unless the tenant elects to end the tenancy at an earlier date by giving one month written notice.
A landlord who offers five or more dwelling units for rent in the State, must include in each lease a statement that the premises will be available in a reasonably safe, habitable condition; or, if that is not the agreement, the lease must include a statement concerning the condition of the premises; a statement specifying landlord's and tenant's obligations as to heat, gas, electricity, water, and repair of the premises.