Eviction and rental collection in Baltimore
December 4, 2016 11:15 PM   Subscribe

I need some help to understand what I can do at this point about our house that we own in Baltimore, Maryland. The tenant has partially moved out, hasn't paid rent for 3 months, and has been illegally letting 2 new roommates live there and he has been collecting rent from them claiming that he's the owner. What are my rights at this point as the landlord? Can I change the locks now? The original lease runs until Dec 31st. We are owed more than $10,000 at this point. Do you have any suggestions, and could you recommended any attorneys / eviction help agencies?

Short version: We are leasing a house to 3 people, two of whom have moved out 6 months back and we found out today that the main tenant has been illegally sub-letting the place to 2 other people and collecting rent from them for the last 3 months. We are owed 3+ months' worth of rent (More than $10,000). Lease ends Dec 31st. We have not sent our written 30-day notice yet. We need help with eviction and collection. We are currently living overseas and I am visiting Baltimore now for a short visit. Please give me your suggestions.

(Sorry for the rambling details below, I am having a hard time keeping emotions out while I write about this situation).

Long version follows:
Our house was rented to 3 tenants on a 1-year lease and the rents were paid on time for 6 months, and then we started having issues. We have a property manager but he has been ineffective in resolving the situation. At the 6-month mark, we found out from the one main tenant that the other two had moved out and this one tenant will continue to live and pay the whole rent. He paid that 1 month late and then stopped paying rent. Now, he owes 3+ months' rent and the lease ends Dec 31st.

Yesterday, we saw a bed frame and mattress left outside the house and the neighbor said he saw a U-haul couple of days back, so today we entered the property to check status after there was no answer to the doorbell. We found someone else living there. He claims that our main tenant leased this place to him 3 months back saying that he was the owner, and he has been paying him rent for 3 months. There is also another roommate living there with this same setup. So this main tenant has been collecting rent from these 2 other people for the past 3 months and has not been paying us anything. When confronted over the phone demanding rent, the main tenant said he won't pay anymore and to send our lawyers.

We learnt from the one sub-letter that the main tenant had kept a dog (pit-bull) in the house that had apparently caused damage to windows, shutters and some carpet areas. We required in the lease to get pre-approval for any pets in the house, but no such request was made to us and of course no pet deposit was made.

Our property manager has been quite passive and does not seem to know enough how to resolve the situation. He is a nice guy who means well, but unfortunately, we need someone with more experience in eviction, collection and dealing with such matters. We are currently living overseas and here in Baltimore now for a short visit.

The other two people living there now seem okay, and we can consider having them officially sign on a lease for the next few months. But we want to make sure that we get a court judgement for collection against the main tenant to recover the money and to report him to the credit agencies.

Can we change the locks now to prevent the main tenant from entering the property? We would be fine having the two new roommates living there sign a lease and give them a set of keys, but I want to keep the current main tenant out if possible. My reading of MD laws says this would be considered "self-help eviction" and thus illegal. We haven't sent a written 30-day notice yet. We can do so on Monday.

Any suggestions for agencies or lawyers in Baltimore would be much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can we change the locks now to prevent the main tenant from entering the property?

Do nothing like this until you have the advice of a qualified attorney and make sure that the property manager does not as well.
posted by Candleman at 2:01 AM on December 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Also, have you filed a police report yet? What does your contract with the property owner say about his dereliction of duties?
posted by Candleman at 10:12 AM on December 5, 2016

Lawer up. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not call a locksmith, until you hire a competent local real estate lawyer.
posted by Cranialtorque at 10:53 AM on December 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

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