The steps to evict 'pigpen' tenants


April 13, 2003

A reader complains about a tenant who does not keep his rental property clean. The landlord wants to know what his legal rights are when it comes to a possible eviction.

Dear Reader:

Your legal rights depend on whether you have a written lease with this "pigpen" tenant.

A written lease may contain a provision which states that the landlord can repossess the premises if the tenant breaches the lease.

Maryland law allows the landlord to file a complaint in District Court to repossess the leased unit and evict the tenant.

The landlord first must give the tenant at least 30 days' written notice that the lease has been breached and that the landlord wants to repossess the unit. The tenant can avoid eviction by correcting the breach and cleaning up the home.

If you do not have a written lease that includes a repossession clause, your most effective remedy is to send the tenant notice that you are terminating the lease at the end of the current term.

For instance, if the lease is for 12 months, you should send the tenant a written notice, by certified and regular mail, at least 30 days before the end of the one-year term.

The notice should state that you are terminating the lease at the end of the term and that the tenant must vacate the home, leaving it in a clean condition.

Under a month-to-month tenancy, the notice of termination must be sent at least 30 days before the last day of the following month. For example, to terminate a month-to-month lease on May 31, the notice of termination should be sent prior to May 1.

I suggest you send the tenant a written notice that he is in breach of the lease and tell him that the premises must be cleaned within 30 days. If the tenant has not complied, you can pursue the available legal remedies.

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