Maryland Landlords Increase Financial Risk When Neglecting Warranty of Habitability Responsibilities

Baltimore and other Maryland landlords have the responsibility to maintain residential rental property and repair any defects or problems. Under Maryland law, there is an implied warranty of habitability; that is, a landlord not only must deliver residential rental property to the tenant in a habitable condition, but s/he remains responsible for maintaining the property in a habitable condition during the term of the lease.

"Habitability" is typically defined in local housing codes. It is usually defined as the minimum standard for decent, safe, sanitary housing suitable for residential purposes.

Most communities have local housing codes. The codes are local ordinances or laws that require owners of real property, including landlords, to maintain the property and make any necessary repairs. These codes typically require that any residential rental property offered by a landlord must meet the minimum standards established in the code. The landlord's responsibility is not only to deliver the rental property to the tenant in compliance with the housing codes but also to maintain compliance with the housing codes throughout the term that the tenant has use and possession of the rental property.  

Deferred maintenance or property neglect?  Some tenants will leverage maintenance issues in an attempt to extort concessions from a landlord and some will attempt to withold payment of rent.  In cases of dispute or possible future litigation, a landlord's best defense is to consult a licensed home or rental property inspector for a written report of the unit's condition and recommendations for repairs or remediation.  Once acted upon, the legal basis for a tenant's complaint can be significantly reduced or eliminated altogether.  The table below is a synopsis of the relevant COMAR.



Maryland Code, Real Property, §8-211


The Landlord must repair and eliminate conditions and defects which constitute, or if not promptly corrected will constitute, a fire hazard or a serious and substantial threat to the life, health or safety of occupants, including, but not limited to:

·          Lack of heat, light, electricity, or hot or cold running water, except where the tenant is responsible for the payment of the utilities and the lack thereof is the direct result of the tenant's failure to pay the charges

·          Lack of adequate sewage disposal facilities

·          Infestation of rodents in two or more dwelling units

·          The existence of any structural defect which presents a serious and substantial threat to the physical safety of the occupants

·          The existence of any condition which presents a health or fire hazard to the dwelling unit

Remedy for breach

If the tenant gives notice of the condition to the landlord and a reasonable time to repair, rebuttably presumed to be 30 days, and the landlord fails to repair, then the tenant may initiate a rent escrow, pay the rent into court while suing the landlord, and take other actions and obtain other forms of relief.  See §8-211(j) and following.


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