Lease agreements hold both tenants and landlords responsible in the leasing of an apartment. Some tenants, however, may not know the extent of their rights. The Maryland District Court (courts.state.md.us/district) lays out steps that renters can take when their dwelling becomes overrun with noise. The noise could be coming from the landlord or another tenant. The Court handles the majority of disputes between tenants and landlords and cases are decided upon by a judge.
The Quiet Enjoyment Covenant
The Maryland State government passed the "Quiet Enjoyment Covenant" in 2010. The agreement states that a renter has a right to a quiet dwelling without any continual noise disturbances caused by the landlord or other tenants. If the property is not free of persistent noise, the renter can take preliminary action without initially involving the court. The renter may let the landlord know about the problem via certified mail. The tenant should then give the landlord no more than 30 days to rectify the issue. If the landlord does not respond then the renter can take additional steps to rectifying the noise problem.
Petition and Summons
If the noise is still an issue, then the renter can take action by involving the District Court. The renter may file a Petition in Action of Rent Escrow/For Injunction/Writ of Summons/Order of Court (DC/CV83), which is available for download from the District Court of Maryland or may be filled out in person at the closest district court office. Once filed, the tenant may serve the landlord with a summons. The landlord may be served by the sheriff via first-class mail or in person for an additional fee.
If the petition does not rectify the noise problem, the tenant still has options for action. The tenant can stop paying rent and allow the landlord to sue in rent court. At that point, the tenant can raise the noise problem as a defense. One caveat is that if you do not pay rent and the landlord sues and wins, then you may be liable for months of unpaid rent. The Maryland District Court suggests taking the preliminary steps before withholding rent. It could be beneficial to seek legal counsel before taking these actions.
The Possibility of Moving Out
The tenant can also move out and file the Petition of Injunction and wait for the landlord to sue for breach of lease or sue the landlord for damages, the security deposit and release from the lease. As with withholding the rent, should the landlord win, the tenant may be held to the terms of the lease.
Burden of Proof is the Renter's
The tenant must provide proof that the landlord was notified of the problem. Sufficient proof of notification would be the certified mail receipt of the original complaint, and the proof of service of the petition. In addition, the tenant must prove that the noise breached the "Quiet Enjoyment Covenant" and that the landlord was allowed sufficient time to rectify the issue.
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