Tenants

What do I need to know as a tenant in Maryland?

In Maryland, if you rent an apartment or home built before 1950*, before you move in, the property owner should have performed lead hazard reduction treatments called Full Risk Reduction Treatments.

To find out when your property was built, click here to search the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation website.

Before you move in, the owner should make sure that:

  • There is no chipping, peeling or flaking paint
  • Window wells and window sills have been treated
  • Floors are smooth and cleanable

After doing the treatments, the property owner must have the unit inspected to verify that the property meets the Full Risk Reduction Treatment standards.

If the residence passes the inspection, the independent, accredited inspector will give the property owner copies of the Lead Risk Reduction Inspection Certificate to provide to the tenant.

The inspector will also file a copy with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). The Inspection Certificate states that the lead hazard reduction treatments were completed properly. This certificate will be on file at MDE. You can check to see if your property is registered and inspected by calling 410-537-4199 or toll free 800-776-2706.

At lease signing or at the time of move-in, the property owner should provide you with: 

  1. A copy of the lead certificate. (View an example certificate)
  2. Protect Your Family from Lead in your Home
  3. Notice of Maryland Tenant’s Rights

New notices and packets must be given to all tenants every two years if there is no change in occupancy. Notices and packets must be sent by certified mail or by a verifiable delivery method.

If your property was built before 1950* and you were not provided these documents when you moved in, contact GHHI at info@ghhi.org or 410-534-6447, or you may call the Maryland Department of Environment directly at 410-537-4199 or toll-free 800-776-2706.

If the rental property was constructed between 1950–1978*, the owner has the option to meet the above treatments; however, he or she is only required to provide you with the educational brochure Protect Your Family from Lead in your Home.

What if there is chipping, peeling and flaking paint in my older rental home after I move in?

You must send notice to the property owner in writing telling the owner about the defects. You may either write your own letter or use a "Notice of Defect Form." Be sure to keep a copy of the signed notice for your records! The Notice of Defect must be sent by certified mail (be certain to retain a copy of the return receipt) and the property owner has 30 days to repair the listed defects.

IT IS AGAINST THE LAW FOR THE PROPERTY OWNER TO EVICT YOU FOR REPORTING PAINT DEFECTS IN YOUR HOME, OR BECAUSE THERE IS A PERSON IN YOUR HOME FOUND TO HAVE A HIGH BLOOD LEAD LEVEL.

Relocation Grant

In an effort to assist more families to relocate to safer housing, GHHI offers a Relocation Assistance Grant to any family that qualifies to help pay for expenses related to their relocation.

Who is eligible?

Any family currently receiving case management and/or another GHHI service may qualify for the grant. Each grant applicant must have applied for all other available financial assistance (Department of Social Services, Rental Allowance Program) prior to applying for the GHHI grant. If the family doesn't receive any assistance from the other sources or the assistance is insufficient, the family may apply for this relocation grant. Priority groups for receiving funds:

  1. Children undergoing chelation due to lead poisoning.
  2. Children under age 6 with an EBL>10µg/dL
  3. Pregnant women living in a non-compliant housing unit

What can I use the money for?

You can use the money for any moving expense: renting a moving truck, security deposit, etc.

How do I apply?

Ask your GHHI case manager for an application form.

The following is a checklist to use when looking for a house or an apartment to rent. This checklist will help you identify possible lead hazards in a property before you move in, allowing you to make an informed decision as to rent the property or not. More importantly this checklist can help ensure you that your child will not be lead poisoned in the property if you take the proper precautions.

Questions to Ask the Property Owner

  1. Was the property built before 1950? Before 1978?
  2. If it was built before 1950*, it is required by law that the property be registered with the Maryland Department of the Environment. Is it registered? You can check this by calling the Maryland Department of the Environment at (410) 631-4199 or the Coalition at (410) 534-6447
  3. Has a child ever been poisoned in the property before? You can check with GHHI at (410) 534-6447.      

Things to Look For When You Are Shown The Property

  • Check the exterior of structure and front porch (if any). Is there chipping paint and rotting wood?
  • Pay close attention to windows. Is there flaking, chipping or peeling paint; are window panes cracked? Check for areas where paint is deteriorated.
  • Look closely at windows and sills. Is there is chipping paint and/or a buildup of dust or paint chips in the window well?
  • Do the doors rub against door frame or floor? Is there chipping paint on the door and/or frame? Does the door bang against wall or molding?
  • Is there any chipping, peeling or flaking paint on any of the walls? Examine walls for cracks or defects that may cause flaking, chipping or peeling after you move in.
  • Check ceilings for cracks, water stains and other imperfections that may cause chipping, peeling and flaking paint. Do you see any?
  • If the stairs are painted, check for chipping on stairs, railings and banisters. If there is no chipping on the steps, ask if a rubber runner can be placed on them to protect them from chipping.
  • If floors are painted, check for chipping and peeling paint. 
  • Check the basement for chipping peeling paint, water leakage/flooding.

Is My Rental Property in Compliance with the Maryland Laws?

First, determine the Year of Construction for your rental property.

Go to the Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation (DAT) website:

  1. Click on Real Property Data Search
  2. Select your county and click on Street Address
  3. Enter your Street Address
  4. Here you will find the property owner’s mailing address and the Primary Structure Built date.
  5. If the Primary Structure Built reads 0000 or is blank you need to call DAT directly. Each county and Baltimore City have separate DAT offices. You will have to call your county or city’s office to find your properties construction date: DAT office phone numbers. DAT can also assist you if there was no record matching your street address.

For rental properties built before 1950*, Maryland law requires the Property Owner to:

  1. Register the property annually with MDE and
  2. Maintain a current Lead Risk Reduction Inspection Certificate. A rental property owner must obtain new Lead Risk Reduction Inspection Certificate at every tenant turnover.

If the property was built between 1950 and 1978* the Property Owner may opt-in to the Lead Program but is not required to have a lead certificate for the property. Also, if the property has been inspected and determined to be lead free, the owner does not have to have the unit inspected at every turnover but should be able to show a lead free certificate for the rental property.

This is a simplified list of owner requirements for pre-1950* rental properties. If you are a property owner please consult the Property Owner section of the website or contact GHHI directly for compliance assistance and information about potentially available grants and loans.

Second, contact MDE to find out if your property is registered and certified.

Call Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) at 410-537-4199

  1. Ask if your property is registered. Ask for the dates the property was first registered and the most recent renewal date.
  2. Ask if your property has been inspected and if it has a Lead Risk Reduction Inspection Certificate. You will want to know the date when most recent certificate was issued and the type of certificate issued. The types of certifications are: Lead Free, Full Risk Reduction, Modified Risk Reduction and Lead Safe

Third, what can you do?

A Notice of Defect, also known as a Notice of Elevated Blood Lead Level, is a written notice that tells the landlord that there is chipping, flaking or peeling paint in the home that is in need of repair. A Notice of Defect may also tell the landlord that a ‘Person at Risk’ (a child under the age of six or a pregnant woman) has a lead level of 10 µg/dL or above and that repairs need to be made in the home.

The Notice of Defect must be sent by certified mail (be certain to retain a copy of the return receipt) and the property owner has 30 days to repair the listed defects. It is illegal for a property owner to evict you or raise your rent for reporting problems and/or defects in your home or that a child has been poisoned by lead. A Landlord CAN evict a tenant if they fail to make timely rental payments.

For more information or assistance with filing a Notice of Defect, contact GHHI at info@ghhi.org or 410-534-6447.

Who can send the Notice of Defect to a Landlord?

The Notice of Defect can be sent by anyone on behalf of the tenant including: the tenant, parents, grandparents, guardians, family members, friends, neighbors, health care providers, government agencies or even community groups and community organizations.

What if my Landlord receives the Notice of Defect and does not make repairs?

Your Landlord must make the necessary repairs within 30 days after receiving the Notice of Defect. If he does not, you may file a complaint with the Maryland Department of the Environment Lead Enforcement Division. The Division will need a copy of your signed Notice of Defect and the certified mail receipt before they can take action.

If your Landlord does not respond and make the repairs within 30 days you can also file a Complaint for Rent Escrow in the local District (Rent) Court, for a filing fee starting at $28.00. You do not need a lawyer to file a Rent Escrow action. Note: Depending on your county, one may have to fill out additional paperwork when filing.

WHAT IS RENT ESCROW?

Rent Escrow is the legal process by which you ask the local District Court (Rent Court) to allow you to pay your rent into a District Court escrow account instead of to your Landlord. This does not mean that you can simply withhold your rent! It is used when you have notified your Landlord (see Notice of Defect) of defects in your rental home that seriously threaten health and human safety, but the Landlord has failed to correct the problem. The law does not cover repairs which are only cosmetic. It only covers dangerous defects such as:

  • chipping, peeling or flaking paint
  • no electricity
  • rodents
  • no hot or cold water
  • faulty plumbing
  • no heat
  • leaky roof or ceiling

Rent Escrow can be a very effective way to get your Landlord to make necessary repairs because it denies your Landlord access to rent money until the repairs are made. It also will protect your rights as a tenant more than withholding rent without a court order.

WHO CAN FILE A RENT ESCROW COMPLAINT?

Anyone can file “A Petition in Action for Rent Escrow.” Preprinted forms are available at the District Court of Maryland. The cost to file a petition depends on the county in which the individual resides and how he or she elects to have notice sent to the landlord.  The District Court of Maryland provides a cost schedule. You do not need a lawyer to file the complaint or to go to District Court (Rent Court) with you. You can also request Rent Escrow if you are defending yourself in court against a “Complaint for Failure to Pay Rent” that your Landlord has filed against you.

HOW DO I USE RENT ESCROW TO REDUCE LEAD POISONING HAZARDS?

In order for the Court to set up rent escrow to repair lead hazards, you must meet ALL of the following conditions:

1. You have a written or oral lease with your Landlord for a rental home built before 1950*;

2. There is chipping or peeling paint in your rental home;

3. You have informed your Landlord in writing about the chipping, peeling paint by sending a Notice of Defect

4. A reasonable amount of time (30) days has passed and your Landlord has failed to repair the chipping, peeling paint and has not performed lead risk reduction treatments;

5. Once the court sets a date for the initial hearing; it is your responsibility to call the necessary inspector if instructed to by the court within three (3) days. Even if a housing code or health department inspector has already been through your home, you still need to call a rent escrow inspector required by the court;

6. Bring all back rent that you owe with you to the first court hearing

WHAT DEFENSES MIGHT MY LANDLORD RAISE?

There are several defenses your Landlord may raise to your Rent Escrow Complaint, such as:

  • You never gave him Notice of the dangerous or defective conditions;  
  • You have not given the Landlord 30 days to do the risk reduction treatments; and/or
  • You have refused the certified workers or the Landlord (if s/he is certified to do risk reduction) entry into your rental home to do the lead risk reduction treatments. 

WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN WHEN I GO TO COURT?

When you go to District Court (Rent Court), the Judge may:

  • Approve the Rent Escrow and order that you pay your rent into the court escrow account instead of to your Landlord;
  • Decrease the amount of rent owed until the risk reduction takes place (rent abatement);
  • Order your Landlord to perform lead hazard treatments (called Risk Reduction treatments) to your home to repair chipping, peeling paint;
  • Order your Landlord to repair other dangerous and defective conditions; and/or
  • Order that the lease be terminated.

WHAT IF MY LANDLORD STARTS REPAIRS BUT DOES NOT USE CERTIFIED LEAD WORKERS?

It is extremely important that all repairs are done using certified workers. Certified workers have special training in lead safe work practices. Any work by any contractor that disturbs 3 sq. ft or more PER ROOM of a painted surface, doors and pieces are taken as entire surface; the contractor DOES NOT have to be doing lead specific work. If unqualified workers are used, they can make a dangerous condition even worse. Call the Maryland Department of the Environment to report unsafe work practices at (410) 537-3825. You can find a list of certified inspectors and contractors here.

For information on using Rent Escrow to protect your family from lead hazards, call GHHI at 410-534-6447 or email marylandprograms@ghhi.org.

All Maryland Properties built before 1950* are required to be in compliance with Maryland Lead Laws. A part of that compliance is that the property be inspected at every turnover of residence. The landlord is required to provide you with a copy of the certificate when you move into the property.

Be sure to check the date on the certificate and make certain it is current. A copy of a sample certificate is available below. If you are moving into a pre-1950 rental and are not given this certificate, the landlord is NOT in compliance with the law and the property may be unsafe for you and your family.

*As of January 1, 2015, "affected properties" will include ALL properties built before 1978. 

The links below are statewide resources for Maryland Tenants

Baltimore Housing Office of Green, Healthy and Sustainable Housing:
Assists Baltimore families in becoming greener, healthier and more sustainable in their homes through a wide range of holistic housing services.

Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc.:
Works for justice in housing by educating community members and other stakeholders on and ensuring compliance with Fair Housing and Tenant/Landlord Laws.

CASA de Maryland Legal Services:
Legal assistance, Spanish-speaking.

Legal Aid Bureau:
Offers a full range of civil legal services to financially qualified low-income Marylanders.

Maryland Attorney General's office:
Help with Landlord/Tenant issues

Maryland Housing Search:
A service of DHCD for finding affordable rental housing throughout Maryland.

Maryland Office of Home Energy Programs:
Help with utility bills.

Public Justice Center:
Legal assistance and tenant advocacy.

 

Find out what hazards lead to severe housing problems and learn what to do to fix your home.

Lead Registry

Download the October 2012 Lead Safe Housing Registry.