Whether you are an existing landlord or considering your first rental property, rent court is something that will enter your life at some point.
I just returned from rent court in Baltimore City yesterday, so I’m going to break down the whole process for you and give you some tips so you don’t waste time or make mistakes.
You will have to visit the court house at least twice. Once to file for the court date. And a second time to go to court.
When You File
Here’s what you will need with you when you file:
1) Two checks or money orders. They don’t take cash or credit cards.
2) Your name and address. If you are using an LLC you will also need your company name and address.
3) Property address. Duh, who’s going to forget this? 🙂
4) All tenant names. They give you space for four, but you can add others if you need to.
5) Lead Inspection Certificate Number. You don’t need the certificate itself, just the number.
6) Property Registration Number.
7) Patience. It can take 10 minutes just to wait for a copy of the Failure To Pay Rent Form.
Here’s the procedure.
Wait for a Failure To Pay Rent form if you don’t already have one. Make sure you also get an EXAMPLE form. They will usually offer one, but it’s very helpful to have the example form showing you what you need to fill out.
Fill out the form completely.
Note: When asking for past due rent, you can include a late fee and any rent that is expected to be due by the court date. Remember the max allowable late fee. In Maryland it’s 5%.
Write the two checks. One to the District Court and one to Director of Finance.
Pay and file with the cashier.
That’s it for that visit. The cashier will give you your form back with the court date and time and case number printed on it.
When You Go To Court
Show up on time and go through security.
In Baltimore City, you can bring your cell phone, but you can NOT bring food or drink.
Check in with the clerk at the court room that is handling the case.
Then just sit and wait to be called. In Baltimore City they want your phone to be off once court begins.
Bring a copy of all paperwork. Bring the lease. Bring the lead certificate. Prior cancelled checks from the tenant or a ledger showing rent paid and not paid. Anything you have that will support your case. It’s usually not needed, but you never know.
In most cases the tenant will not show and your case will proceed toward eviction as filed.
If the tenant argues, then you will have to support your case. If the tenant says there are repair issues with the property, then the case will be sent to Escrow Court and the rent will be held by the Court until the property is deemed satisfactory.
Assuming you were successful in court, it will take several days for the eviction to be approved and for you to receive the notification in the mail. At that point you can call the Sheriff and schedule the eviction, which is usually about two weeks later. You just need to make sure the tenant is notified of this date.
IMPORTANT: The tenant can pay the rent at any time and stop the eviction up to the actual eviction itself. If you as the landlord accept ANY amount of rent, even $1, the eviction process is nullified and you have to start over again. Some tenants will offer you whatever portion of the rent they have at the time. Do not accept it unless you are prepared to stop the eviction process for the moment and start another one the following month.
Luckily I have never had to actually evict anyone. The prior tenants who were filed against left on their own prior to the scheduled eviction. One of them left the day prior.
I hope this helps you understand the eviction process, whether you are already a landlord or wondering what you might have to deal with if you become one.
Feel free to contact me with any questions and thank you for reading.