A lease agreement is a contract between a tenant and landlord that is active for a specific period of time, usually one year. It’s also legally binding during the entire time it's active. So, when your tenant makes an early lease termination request, you may find yourself in a precarious situation.
Tenants may want to break their leases for any number of reasons. When it comes to terminating a lease agreement, not all reasons are created equal. Some can be legally justified whereas others may not be.
As such, it’s important for you, as a landlord, to understand such lease termination regulations to avoid potential legal issues.
The following is everything you need to know when it comes to a tenant breaking a lease in Maryland.
What Obligations Do Tenants in Maryland have?
Besides responsibilities such as paying rent and caring for their rented units, Maryland tenants also have to notify the landlord when looking to move out of their rented premises.
To terminate a weekly agreement, your tenant must provide you with one week’s written notice. A monthly lease, requires one month’s written notice and a yearly lease, requires 3 months’ written notice.
That being said, a tenant must have legal cause to break their lease if they don’t want to incur penalties.
What are the Legally Justifiable Reasons for Breaking a Lease in Maryland?
Maryland tenants can break their lease legally if they have the following reasons:
Active Military Duty
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects active service members who belong to either the:
- Armed forces
- Activated National Guard
- Commissioned corps of the Public Health Service
- Commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The act protects these service members when they are relocated due to a deployment or when they have received permanent change of station. The tenant must however, meet the following conditions to break the lease:
- Provide proof that they signed the lease before they entered active military duty.
- Provide proof that they intend to remain on active duty for at least the next ninety days.
- Provide copies of the deployment letters from their commanding officers.
Once your tenant has met all these conditions, their lease will automatically end 30 days after the next rent period begins. So, let’s suppose that the tenant delivers the notice on the 23rd of April and the rent is due on the 1st of every month. In such a case, the earliest the lease can terminate will be June 1st.
Early Lease Termination Clause
Among other terms, some lease agreements can also contain an early termination clause. The clause highlights the specific conditions that a tenant must meet to be allowed to break the agreement.
There are usually two prime conditions to an early termination clause, the notice period and the fee. The notice period, typically two months, allows the landlord time to find a replacement tenant.
As for the fee, this helps cover for any costs of advertising the vacant unit and screening tenants. The fee is usually the equivalent of two months rent.
Victims of Domestic Violence
Your Maryland tenant may also be able to terminate their lease if they become a victim of domestic violence. The following two statutes are applicable in this regard:
- Early termination. Tenants who have become victims of sexual abuse, sexual assault, stalking or domestic violence may be able to terminate their lease early.
- Proof of status. Landlords have a right to require proof from domestic violence victims.
Landlord harassment is illegal in all the fifty states. The following are examples of acts that can be deemed landlord harassment:
- Failing to perform requested or needed repairs or maintenance tasks.
- Withholding amenities that the lease provides for, such as landscaping services.
- Making up or exaggerating instances of improper conduct.
- Singling out a tenant for policy violations but ignoring others for the same.
- Deliberately destroying property belonging to the tenant.
- Creating an unnecessary nuisance that violates the tenant’s right to peace and quiet enjoyment of their rented premises.
- Threatening the tenant with financial injury, such as reporting them to credit bureaus or providing negative reports to future landlords.
Your tenant may also be able to break their lease if you are found culpable of privacy violation. Landlords have a right of enter the rented units, however, tenants have a right to privacy.
You may need to enter your tenant’s premises for any of the following reasons:
- To inspect the unit for lease adherence.
- To make needed or requested repairs.
- Under orders of the court.
- Any time there is a genuine emergency.
Some states have legislation in regards to how much notice a landlord must provide their tenant with before entering their unit. Maryland, however, doesn’t. That being said, it’s good practice to notify your tenant beforehand to avoid potential privacy violation lawsuits.
Landlords must provide their tenants with habitable rental premises. If you don’t, that could be enough justification for your tenant to break their lease.
If you would like help staying up-to-date on these regulations or would like assistance managing your rental units, contact the experts at Wayson Enterprises today!
Disclaimer: This blog is in no way intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice. Laws change and it might not be updated at the time you read it. For expert legal advice, please get in touch with a qualified attorney or an experienced property management company.