So I recently had a case where I had to defend a landlord against a tenant in a final peace order hearing in Maryland. I figured I would use this facts of my case to illustrate the unique principles that I learned about peace order hearings in the context of a landlord-tenant relationship.
What Happened In This Landlord-Tenant Dispute Turned Peace Order Case?
- The tenant alleged that the landlord:
- Attempted to illegally enter the property;
- Attempted to enter the property multiple times without giving 24 hour notices;
- Coming to the property “as if he lives at the residence”;
- Yelled at her and jumped in her face;
- Came in while she was undressed multiple times.
What Were My Defenses To The Tenant Being Granted A Final Peace Order?
- My defense focused on:
- That he provided multiple 24 hour written notices;
- That the Tenant was the one breaking the law by not providing him reasonable access after providing notices;
- There were necessary repairs that needed to be made;
- That the landlord’s interest was in repairing his property for the health and safety of the tenant and not in harassing her.
What Is A Peace Order?
A peace order is a form of legal protection to ask the other person to refrain from contacting you and to leave you alone. In my case, the tenant did not want her landlord to show up at his property. From the tenant’s standpoint, my client was unreasonably invading her space and causing trouble. She wanted the landlord and his contractors to only show up at times that are convenient for her. The landlord on the other hand believed that giving at least 24 hours notice was reasonable to make repairs. She accused him of harassment and trespassing.
Can Landlord’s Trespass On Their Own Property?
I think the best answer to this question is yes. But in my opinion tenants have an extremely high burden to be granted a final protective order based on trespassing. They have to show that the landlords motive is to visit the property is to harass or threaten them. In my case, the landlord needed to make necessary repairs and provided the tenant with many 24 hours notices as provided by Prince George’s County Law.
Is Providing 24 Hours Notice Enough To Avoid Trespassing Issues?
For further context, this hypothetical takes place in Prince George’s County where it is local County law for landlords to provide tenants with at least 24 hours notice and they can only visit during normal business hours. Except for in cases of emergency or mutually agreed upon times.
My defense was that as long as my landlord provided 24 hours notice he can visit the property per county law. Believe it or not the Judge disagreed with me. The way she saw it is that landlords should try to accommodate tenants and visit during times that worked for them. To my shock and dismay.
I think this illustrates that either reasonable minds can differ or that Judges that hear peace and protective order cases are generally dealing with crazy exes and broken relationships rather than landlord-tenant relationships. Which makes sense because more often than not landlord-tenant disputes belong in landlord-tenant court rather than peace and protective order court. I feel as if the Judges that routinely hear landlord-tenant cases would have interpreted the law more in line to my strict interpretation. But that brings me to my next very practical pointer…
Peace & Protective Order Order Judges Vs Landlord-Tenant Court Judges
Anyone contemplating filing for a peace order needs to know their audience. You will be before Judges that are hearing from victims of battery, false imprisonment, and sexual assault. In that context, my clients alleged offenses seem petty. The Judge found no basis for a peace order even if the tenants allegations were true.
A Peace Order Is A Very Serious Remedy
Perhaps the most important takeaway is that a peace order is viewed as a very serious remedy. Not only does the petitioner have to prove that the incidents that lead to the peace order happened, but that they are serious enough to warrant a peace order and that the incident is likely to happen again so that protection is needed. In my case the Judge saw this as an access and landlord-tenant dispute in which a peace order wasn’t necessary.
Are Peace Orders An Unworkable Solution In Landlord-Tenant Cases?
I think peace orders in the landlord-tenant context can easily become an unworkable solution. What I mean by this is that the point of peace orders are to keep the other person away from you. Suppose the tenant was able to succeed and get a protective order against her landlord. She would have held the peace order over his head each and every time he attempted to do inspections or make repairs. Essentially she would have been able to deny him access to his own property. Peace orders are for stopping violence. Not for stopping your landlord from visiting the property.
That said, I don’t think it’s impossible for a landlord or a tenant to be granted a peace order. There are cases in which landlords assault tenants (and vice-versa) where I believe a peace orders are the right solution.
Are You A Landlord That Needs Help Defending Yourself In a Peace Order Action?
Do not go to Court alone. Contact us to discuss your defense. Although I spend most of my time in landlord-tenant court, I will put on my peace order hat to defend my landlord clients should it become necessary.