Landlord need not disclose death

FOR RENTERS

June 19, 1994|By George B. Laurent

"After I moved into my apartment, I found out that the previous tenant had been murdered in the apartment. Had I known this, I would never have rented the apartment. Should not the landlord have informed me of this situation? Can I get out of my lease?"

Unfortunately, you can't break the lease without the possibility of having the landlord hold you responsible for lost rent. Maryland law protects a landlord from having to disclose that a homicide, suicide, natural death or a felony occurred on the property.

Nor does the landlord have to reveal that the previous owner or occupant of the property is or was suspected to be infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or is or was expected to be diagnosed with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

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"I am coming to the end of my year's lease and find that they are offering new tenants a rent that is $100 less per month than what I am asked to pay for my lease renewal. The landlord refuses to sign a renewal lease for the lower rent. Isn't this illegal?"

No, the landlord can maintain that he is offering an incentive in order to lure new tenants into the apartment. It is he who is losing the $100 per month -- not the tenant.

This is like a magazine which offers a 50% reduction for new subscribers and a 25% reduction for subscribers who renew their subscription.

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"I have a signed lease and am scheduled to move into a new apartment in three days. Now, I am told that the current tenant has decided to stay on. The landlord claims he can do nothing about it and I will have to find another apartment. I must leave my current apartment because it is rented to a new tenant."

Maryland law requires a landlord to assure that the tenant will have possession of the premises at the beginning of the term.

If the landlord fails to do this, the tenant will not owe any rent until he is able to take possession and may cancel the lease and receive all his money back.

More important, he can hold the landlord responsible for any resulting financial loss he suffers.

For example, while the incoming tenant must make every reasonable effort to lessen his damage, if he has no place to go and has to put his furniture in storage and go to a motel until he can find another rental, the incoming tenant can hold the landlord responsible for his financial loss.

The landlord in turn can hold the current tenant who refused to leave responsible for any damage the landlord suffers because the tenant refused to leave at the end of his tenancy.

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"I am 17 years old and intend to work in Ocean City this summer. If I sign a lease for the summer and then have to break it, what am I liable for?"

In Maryland, anyone under 18 is considered a minor. If a minor breaks a lease, he cannot be held liable for future rent, but can be for past rent. For example, if you leave at the end of July and haven't paid July's rent, you owe it. However, you won't owe rent for August.

If you continue in the lease until you become 18, then you can be held as an adult for the term of the lease.

George B. Laurent is executive director of BNI, or Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc., a private nonprofit group that works to resolve tenant-landlord problems and to eliminate housing discrimination.

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