COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in
This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information. Your local city or county may have additional protections for renters.
This page was last updated on July 3, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.
Its information is taken from these sources:Governor's executive orderCourt of Appeals orderMaryland Courts Covid-19 pageGovernor's order on utilitiesPrinceton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect TrackerMaryland courts re-opening plans
- Are there any special protections for renters during the emergency? How long do they last?
Yes, Maryland's Governor ordered a suspension of evictions for renters with COVID-19 financial hardships, effective until the end of the public health emergency.
The Maryland Court of Appeals has placed on hold almost all eviction orders and cases (as well as home foreclosure cases). Some emergency eviction cases and some open warrants for eviction can move forward starting June 5. All other eviction and foreclosure cases and eviction warrants are paused until at least July 25, 2020.
New and re-scheduled eviction cases for failure to pay rent will resume starting August 31. Check the court’s website for updates.
Maryland has also suspended utility shutoffs for nonpayment through July 1, 2020.
You may also be eligible for national protections, check below to see if you are.
- What do the protections mean for renters?
The protections means that through the end of the emergency in Maryland:
- Your landlord can still give you a notice to quit.
- Your landlord may still file an eviction claim in court against you.
- Courts are not hearing most eviction cases. They are only hearing eviction cases involving emergency issues like threats or injuries to people or property. They will begin hearing more eviction cases in July, and nonpayment of rent eviction cases after August 30.
- The court may not issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you, if you can prove that you suffered a COVID-19 financial hardship.
- In many (but not all) Maryland counties, law enforcement will not enforce an existing eviction order against you.
- Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency?
Yes, Maryland renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.
Also check with your local city or county government to see if they give renters any additional protections if they are struggling to pay rent during the emergency. For example, Montgomery County has a COVID-19 Renter Relief Act that limits how landlords may increase rent during the emergency.
If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:
- Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain why you cannot pay the rent because of COVID-19 impact. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. You can also use this letter-writing tool here.
- Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
- Keep proof of COVID-19's impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
- Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help.
- Can my landlord evict me during the emergency?
You cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent during the emergency period in Maryland if you have suffered COVID-19 financial hardships.
Courts in Maryland have suspended most eviction cases through at least July 25, 2020. Emergency eviction cases may be moving forward after June 5. If the eviction is based on nonpayment of rent, the court won't hear the case until after August 30th.
Once the emergency period ends, landlords can begin to pursue evictions against renters once again.
- You may also have U.S. national protections against eviction that last through July 2020. Check here below to see if you are eligible for them.
If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.
- Can my utilities be shut off during the emergency?
Your utilities cannot be shut off in Maryland until July 1, 2020. Utility companies cannot charge late fees during this period as well.
You still are required to pay your utility bills. If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.
Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.
- Are you eligible for U.S. national protections against eviction?
Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.
Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.
If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)
- Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
- Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
- After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.