Landlords in Maryland usually ask their tenants to pay a security deposit equivalent to one month’s rent when leases are signed, but they may ask for more when the tenant owns pets or has a troubled credit history. However, Maryland tenant law states that the amount they ask cannot be more than two month’s rent. Landlords are also required to place security deposits of more than $50 in a separate savings or certificate of deposit account that pays interest. If landlords demand security deposits that are more than two month’s rent, tenants could be entitled to up to three times the excess amount plus any attorney fees they paid.
Security deposits are paid to ensure that landlords are compensated for any damage done to rental properties by tenants, but determining what damage is the tenant’s responsibility is sometimes a contentious issue. Landlords are not required to provide a list of existing damage, but tenants can request such a list within 15 days of moving in. This request should be made by certified mail. It is also wise for tenants to take photographs of existing damage before they move in.
Returning security deposits
Maryland law gives landlords 45 days to return security deposits after tenants move out. However, they are permitted to hold security deposits or return less than the full amount to cover unpaid rent or damage that exceeds normal wear and tear. Landlords must also perform a walkthrough to inspect for damage at the end of a lease, and they must notify the tenant in writing that they have a right to be present. When damage is discovered, landlords must make a record of it and provide details to tenants in writing.
Advocating on behalf of tenants
Attorneys with experience in this area could take legal action on behalf of tenants when landlords ask for more than two month’s rent as a security deposit, blame them for existing damage or refuse to return their security deposit. Attorneys could also seek to hold landlords responsible when they charge fraudulent fees, perform illegal evictions or tolerate dangerous conditions or pest infestations in their properties.