Did you know ... Montgomery County passed a new Landlord-Tenant Law?
The Montgomery County Council has passed a far-reaching law governing residential landlord-tenant law. The new law became effective on March 13, 2017. The initial provisions of the law require the Director of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs to draft and publish on the county website a model lease “drafted in clear language understandable to persons without legal training” and to make the lease available in a number of different languages. The director is also required to provide a handbook explaining the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants and make it available on the county website in a printable format.
Another major provision of the new law requires the inspection of rental housing on a regular basis, with the further requirement that the director report a summary of violations to the Montgomery County Council. The report is to include a summary of violations found and corrected. The director is also obligated to inspect multi-family residential housing units at least every three years and identify any violations that could affect the health of the tenants, including but not limited to pest infestation, mold, water leaks, lack of utilities, etc. The law includes provisions for more frequent inspections if violations are found to exist.
In what is clearly the most significant development in the law, tenants are given the right to terminate their lease upon 30 days’ written notice for any of the following reasons: “ (s) (1) an involuntary change of employment from the Washington metropolitan area; (2) the death of a major wage earner; (3) unemployment; (4) the tenant or the tenant’s child being a victim of domestic violence; (5) a landlord harassing the tenant or violating the tenant’s privacy rights; (6) a tenant over 62 years of age needing to move to a nursing home; (7) the tenant being incarcerated or declared mentally incompetent; or (8) other reasonable cause beyond the tenant’s control.” The tenant may be charged a “termination charge” not to exceed one month’s rent. The above provisions are extraordinary in affording options for tenants to terminate a lease in Montgomery County, Maryland with only minor penalties.
Although the law is intended to primarily affect multi-family apartment buildings, there are no exceptions for individuals who may own rental properties in the county. Those landlords are also subject to the inspection and tenant cancellation rights provisions. If you are a landlord or property manager in Montgomery County, you need to become fully familiar with the terms of this new law.