So you want to be a landlord? Part 1 — The Rental License

Got Property? In these economic times, the selling of real estate isn’t happening as quickly — or for the price — that most people would like. Be that as it may, whether it’s the economy or whether someone has property and is looking to make some extra cash, I’m finding that a lot of people lately are asking me the same question: “What do I need to do to rent out my property?”

For purposes of this blog series, I’ll be focusing on residential landlord/tenant requirements. Commercial leases have different requirements than residential leases, and many commercial lease terms are subject to negotiation by either the landlord or the tenant.

Maryland’s landlord/tenant requirements are found in Section 8 of the Real Property Article of Maryland’s Annotated Code. Click here. However, each county, municipality, or local jurisdiction may impose additional requirements upon a landlord as well. Additional requirements? One of those additional requirements is an important one. Assuming a landlord’s rental property is habitable and meets local building code requirements, before a landlord considers finding a tenant for his/her property, a landlord needs to know whether his county, municipality or local jurisdiction requires him/her to obtain a rental license. In addition to obtaining a rental license, a landlord should also verify that he has obtained the proper type of rental license for his property, since there are many levels or types of rental licenses in the numerous Maryland counties.

What happens if a landlord fails to obtain a rental license and/or obtains the wrong type of license? On this point, the Maryland Court of Appeals in McDaniel v. Baranowski, 419 Md. 560 (2011) is clear:

“in order to invoke the facile process of summary ejectment, a landlord in those jurisdictions requiring licensure must affirmatively plead and demonstrate that he is licensed at the time of the filing of the complaint for summary ejectment in order to initiate the summary ejectment process.”

Moreover, under the Court’s decision, holding the wrong type of license may be the equivalent of having no license at all.

Q: So, what’s the practical application of this license requirement?

A: Well, landlord, if your tenant isn’t paying rent, and you wish to evict said tenant, you cannot avail yourself to Maryland’s summary ejectment process (in other words, eviction) in a county that requires a landlord license until you have demonstrated that you have obtained the proper rental license.

Residential landlords, do yourself a favor. Before you rent that property, check to see if your county or local jurisdiction requires a rental license and obtain one. To assist my landlord clients, and prospective landlord clients, the following is a list of the Maryland counties which require rental licenses. If you live in a city like Hagerstown (which I know requires a landlord license), please check your local jurisdiction’s specific rules.

Allegany County: No. *The City of Cumberland requires a license.
Anne Arundel County : Yes, for multiple dwellings.
Baltimore City: Yes.
Baltimore County: Yes.
Calvert County: No.
Caroline County: No.
Carroll County: No
Cecil County: No (Although last year Elkton voted to table the measure.)
Charles County: No.
Dorchester County: Rental units must be registered.
Frederick County: No.
Garrett County: No. * However, vacation units rented for short terms require a license.
Harford County: No.
Howard County: Yes.
Kent County: No.
Montgomery County: Yes.
Prince Georges: Yes.
Queen Anne’s County: No.
St. Mary’s County: No.
Somerset County: No.
Talbot County: No. *Requires license for Short Term Rentals.
Washington County: No. * City of Hagerstown requires a rental license.
Wicomico County: No. *City of Salisbury requires a rental license.
Worcester: No. *Ocean City requires a business license for single and multi-family rentals.

Keep in mind, the requirements of counties and local jurisdictions are continuously changing. Therefore, while readers of this blog and potential landlords can find the above-information helpful, I am making no warranties that the requirements of each county and local jurisdiction listed above are entirely accurate and will not change. DO NOT rely on this blog as your only resource. I have also not touched on each and every local jurisdiction within the State of Maryland. Thus, it is up to you, landlords, to ascertain the laws of your county and/or your locality regarding rental licenses.

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