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Unlicensed Landlord May Evict Residential Tenants

In Velicky v. Copycat Bldg. LLC, --- Md. ---, Nos. 1 & 2, Sept. Term 2021, 2021 WL 5562319 (Nov. 29, 2021), a divided Court of Appeals held that a landlord could avail itself of the summary procedures of the tenant holding over statute to evict two residential tenants who did not vacate their apartments after receiving a 60-day notice to quit despite the fact that the landlord did not have a rental license as required by Baltimore City law.

The landlord, Copycat Building, LLC (Copycat), filed separate holding over actions against tenants in the District Court sitting in Baltimore City under Real Property Article (RP) §8-402. In each case, the district court ruled for the tenants, finding that Copycat had not satisfied its burden of proving that the lease had expired. Copycat took appeals to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, which held de novo hearings and ruled for the landlord. Thereafter, the tenants filed petitions for certiorari with the Court of Appeals. Although the Court of Appeals granted the cert. petitions, it ruled that the landlord had established the statutory requirements for writs of possession under RP §8-402. In their petition to the Court of Appeals, the tenants requested that the Court hold that the tenant holding over statute is unavailable to an unlicensed landlord seeking a writ of possession of the landlord’s property after the expiration of a tenancy, as a matter of public policy. The Court declined to impose the obligation of a landlord to hold a rental license as required under Baltimore City Code Art. 13, §5-4 as an additional condition to a landlord’s right to avail itself of its remedies under RP §8-402.

The Court reached this result even though it had held in McDaniel v. Baranowski, 419 Md. 560 (2011), that an unlicensed landlord in Anne Arundel County could not enforce the failure to pay rent statute, RP § 8-401. The Court reasoned that the applicable state statutes were different, and if the McDaniel reasoning were extended to tenant holding over actions, a landlord that is not in possession of a current rental license does not have a statutory remedy by which to seek repossession of the property after a tenancy expired.

The Court also noted that a license for the rental of residential property deals with leasing property to a tenant, and the condition that the property must be in, but the subject case pertained to a landlord’s getting the property back from tenants after their tenancies expired.

The Court remanded the cases to the circuit court, so the appeals could be tried on the record of the district court proceedings. The Court noted that appeals from civil cases tried in district courts are to be heard on the record if the amount in controversy exceeds $5,000, and the Court found that two months’ rent, the minimum time of delay to the landlord in gaining possession of the property, was more than $5,000.

In separate opinions, Judges McDonald and Watts dissented.

Pending Legislation: House Bill 174 introduced in the 2022 session of the Maryland General Assembly would require a landlord, at the time of filing a certain complaint in an action for repossession for failure to pay rent, to show compliance with certain local license requirements and certain lead-based paint abatement laws.

For more information, contact Edward J. Levin.

 

Ed Levin
410-576-1900 • elevin@gfrlaw.com

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Date

01.24.22

Type

Publications

Authors

Levin, Edward J.

Teams

Real Estate