Rest Escrow is a procedure to ensure the repair of serious or dangerous defects within a single unit or common areas. The District Court collects rent from the tenant and does not give it to the landlord until the landlord has made the repairs or fixed the defect. Rent escrow can also be used as a defense to a landlords failure to pay rent action. Please note Baltimore City has its own rent escrow procedure not covered here.
The Defect Must be Covered By Maryland Law
Not all defects are covered by Maryland law. Defects that are covered include but are not limited to: (1) lack of utilities except when tenant is responsible for paying for them; (2) lack of adequate sewage disposal facilities; (3) Rodent infestation in at least two dwellings; (4) A structural defect that presents a serious and substantial threat to the physical safety of tenants or; (5) Any condition that is a health or fire hazard to the dwelling.
Defects that merely effect impair aesthetic value and non-dangerous housing code violations are not covered by Maryland law including but not limited to: (1) Lack of fresh paint, carpets, or anything that reduces the aesthetic value of the premises; (2) small cracks in the floor, walls, or ceiling; (3) lack of tile on the floors if the floor is structurally safe, and (4) the absence of air conditioning.
The Notice Requirement
Before filing for rent escrow the tenant must give the landlord notice of the defective conditions. Sending a written notice to the landlord by certified mail that lists the defects is sufficient.
Landlord’s Opportunity to Make Repairs
After receiving a notice of defective condition the landlord has a reasonable time to make repairs before a tenant can file for rent escrow. A reasonable amount of time is determined by the Judge on a case by case basis. The more dangerous the condition, the less time the landlord has to make repairs. There is a rebuttable presumption that it should not take a landlord to make repairs more than 30 days to repair the defect after receipt of the notice.
Tenant Strategy for Rent Escrow
In order for the tenant to prevail she must prove that the landlord was given proper notice to correct the defect, and continue to pay into the rent escrow.
Landlord Strategy to Defend Against Rent Escrow
A landlord can prevail if he can prove (1) that the defect or condition was caused by the tenant, a member of her family, her employee, her agent, or her guest; or (2) that the landlord was denied reasonable and appropriate entry to the premises to make repairs.
The court has a number of remedies to resolve rent escrow cases. A Judge may (1) order termination of the lease and surrender the premises to the landlord subject to the tenant’s right of redemption; (2) dismiss the rent escrow; (3) reduce the amount of rent required under the lease; (4) order the landlord repair the conditions.
The Pendergraft Firm LLC Rent Escrow Practice
Brian Pendergraft is a Maryland landlord-tenant attorney that has successfully represented both landlords and tenants in the District Court of Maryland. Call us at (301) 205-9013 or E-mail [email protected] to schedule a free phone consultation!
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