With Maryland courts working through a backlog of eviction cases filed throughout the pandemic, Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) released guidance for tenants facing eviction.
The guidance issued Thursday by the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division includes information about where tenants facing eviction can access legal aid and their rights in the eviction process.
“The COVID pandemic has substantially affected the ability of many Marylanders to pay rent due to job loss, diminished wages, health crises, and more,” Frosh said in a release. “For families facing eviction and possible homelessness, there is help available. We encourage Maryland residents struggling to pay rent to read and share this document.”
Of paramount importance in defending against an eviction is attending court hearings, the guidance tells readers. If tenants do not respond to the court or appear for hearings, the guidance warns, the judge will likely rule for the landlord and the eviction will proceed.
The guidance includes a full list of resources for tenants, including rental assistance and legal aid programs. Among those programs are the Maryland Legal Assistance Call Center at 877-546-5595 and a variety of local rent relief programs, as well as Maryland Legal Aid, which provides free and low-cost legal assistance.
Thousands of Marylanders fell behind on rent amid the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and fair housing advocates repeatedly have called on state and local officials to institute more robust protections for renters.
Tenants have some eviction protections, including an order from Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) that allows tenants to avert a failure-to-pay rent eviction if they can prove they lost substantial income because of the pandemic. That order is in force as long as Maryland remains under a state of emergency by the governor’s order.
Tenant-holding-over actions, which occur when a tenant remains after the lease ends, are not covered under the governor’s eviction protection order.
Earlier this month a federal judge struck down a hold order on evictions issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That order, which is similar to Hogan’s, is still subject to a legal battle. Frosh’s eviction guidance notes that, although those orders temporarily prevent an eviction, tenants will still owe all rent due to their landlords.
Attempts to codify and expand state protections for tenants failed to pass in the General Assembly before the end of the 2021 legislative session. Since, leaders from some of the state’s largest jurisdictions have called on Hogan to institute a temporary moratorium on evictions while local and state officials establish rent relief programs with funds they are set to receive as part of the latest federal stimulus.