Eviction is the court ordered removal of a tenant and the tenant’s personal belongings from a rental property. It is the final step in a series of procedures initiated by a landlord to regain possession of the rental property. A tenant may be evicted for non-payment of rent, breach of lease, or tenant holding over.

  • A landlord may file a Failure to Pay Rent (FPR) action against a tenant when rent is overdue.
  • A landlord may file a Breach of Lease (BOL) action against a tenant when the tenant violates a policy contained in the lease.
  • A landlord may file a Tenant holding over (THO) action against a tenant who did not vacate the property by the date on the notice to vacate, whether given by the tenant or the landlord.

It is up to a Judge to decide whether the facts presented in Court warrant an eviction. Only the District Court and the Sheriff’s Office may evict a tenant. A landlord does not have the right to evict without proper judicial process. Any lock-out of a tenant or removal of tenant’s property without judicial process is prohibited by law and exposes the landlord to substantial civil liability.

Filing complaints with the Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs or Housing and Code Enforcement will not stay any proceeding against a tenant in the District Court. Remember, the Department of Housing and Community Affairs is a separate entity from the Court. Therefore, in order to protect your rights, you must attend any court dates that are scheduled to be sure your evidence is presented. Do not depend on the landlord’s representation that the case has been dismissed.

The following sequence of events takes place when a landlord files a Failure to pay rent action in the District Court:

Filing a Failure to Pay Rent action

  • The landlord files the action with the District Court stating the amount of rent due and requests a judgment for repossession of the property and/or rent due, including late fees and any court awarded costs.
  • When filing an action to repossess property, the landlord must certify that the property is currently registered with Maryland Department of the Environment (if applicable) and give the certificate number.
  • When filing an action to repossess property, the landlord must also certify whether the tenant(s) is/are in active military service.
  • When filing an action to repossess property in a Failure to Pay Rent action, the landlord must provide a current rental facility license number.

Scheduling Hearing

  • The District Court schedules a hearing and issues the tenant a summons to appear in court. The summons is forwarded to the Sheriff’s Office for service.
  • The Sheriff mails one copy of the summons to the tenant by first class mail and attempts to serve the tenant in person. If the tenant is not available to be served, a copy of the summons is posted on the door of the rental property.

Holding a Hearing

  • If the tenant appears in District Court, he/she has the right to offer a defense. The landlord may request prior to trial, ALL rents due as of the hearing date, including any late fees and court awarded costs. This request must be made on the Failure to Pay Rent Summons. At the hearing, the Judge will decide whether the landlord is entitled to the rent and/or possession of the rental property.
  • If the tenant fails to appear, the Court will likely award a default judgment for the landlord to repossess the property. If the landlord or agent fails to appear, the Court will dismiss the action.
  • If either party disagrees with the Judge’s ruling, they have the right, within four days of the Judge’s ruling, to appeal the judgment to the Circuit Court.
  • If no appeal is filed, the landlord files a Warrant of Restitution, which is signed by the Judge and forwarded to the Sheriff’s Office.
  • Once the Warrant of Restitution is mailed to the tenant, the Landlord and the Sheriff’s Office by the District Court clerk, the landlord contacts the Sheriff to arrange a date and time for the eviction.

Executing the Eviction Order

  • Once the eviction is scheduled, the Sheriff may post a red and white notice on the door of the rental property. However, even if such a notice is not posted, the Sheriff will still proceed with the eviction;
  • While the landlord is responsible for removing the tenant’s possessions from the property, including all associated parking spaces and storage units, and placing them in the closest public right of way, an eviction cannot take place unless the Sheriff is present.
  • If a landlord gets a judgment for repossession against a tenant for Failure to Pay Rent, in most cases, the tenant can prevent an eviction by paying the judgment before the Sheriff executes the eviction order. This payment must be made by cash, certified check or money order to the landlord or his agent (including all court-awarded costs, with the exception of court-awarded attorney’s fees). The tenant needs to get a receipt and confirm with the Sheriff’s Office that the landlord has canceled the eviction. A tenant can be evicted the first time the landlord files an action for nonpayment of rent against them if the tenant does not pay when, or before, the Sheriff arrives to carry out the eviction.
  • If three judgments for unpaid rent have been entered against a tenant in the 12 months prior to the initiation of a Failure to Pay Rent action, and the tenant has paid the debt and redeemed the property, on the fourth filing, the landlord can request a Judgment Absolute, With No Right of Redemption. If a Judgment Absolute is entered, payment of overdue rent will not prevent an eviction.
  • If you receive a Warrant of Restitution, you can call the Sheriff at 240-777-7130 to see if an eviction has been scheduled for your address. While the sheriff will tell you if an eviction has been scheduled, the Sheriff will NOT tell you the specific date and time.

Tenant Holding Over and Breach of Lease actions

The court process in a Tenant Holding Over action and a Breach of Lease action are essentially the same as those in a Failure to Pay Rent action with the following exceptions:

  • The appeal period for Tenant Holding Over and Breach of Lease actions is 10 days; and
  • Payment of overdue rent will not prevent an eviction.

For a more detailed description of the eviction process, go to the Landlord-Tenant Handbook.

Landlord-Tenant Handbook (ChineseEnglishFrenchKoreanSpanishVietnamese)

Eviction Prevention (English, Spanish)

Eviction Section, Sheriff’s Office https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/sheriff/sections/eviction-section.html

Rent Escrow

If a landlord fails to correct violations within a reasonable time, DHCA encourages tenants to file a rent escrow action in the District Court and file a complaint with Landlord-Tenant Affairs. The meaning of reasonable time varies with the seriousness and severity of the problem. Most problems that are considered a threat to health or safety should be corrected in a very short time frame. 

Filing Rent Escrow action will not automatically stay a Failure to Pay Rent action already filed by a landlord. However, a tenant can raise the landlord’s failure to correct health and safety issues at the property as a defense. The Judge may consider the request as a rent escrow action and ask that Housing Code Enforcement conduct an inspection to verify such claims. The Court would require the tenant to pay the court the amount due under the lease or such amount the Court determines is needed in order to pursue the rent escrow action. Should Housing Code Enforcement find there are no violations that rise to the level of threats to health and safety, the case would proceed as any other failure to pay rent action. In order to insure the condition of the rental unit is considered by the Court, a tenant should file a Rent Escrow action before a landlord files a Failure to Pay Rent action. The tenant can then raise the existence of these defects and conditions as an affirmative defense for non-payment of rent and the Judge would generally try the cases together. 

A Petition for Action of Rent Escrow form is available from the Clerk of the Landlord-Tenant Division of the District Court. To obtain copies of this form, call 301-563-8800. 

For more information, explore the links below: