E-Alerts & Press Releases

Victory! Court of Appeals rules that landlords who ignore unsafe conditions don’t have a right to evict tenants when they withhold rent

November 29, 2016: A tenant is summoned to Rent Court, threatened with eviction for failing to pay the rent. But the roof leaks, the furnace is broken, there are rats in the walls, the tenant counters. Why should I pay the rent when the landlord won’t fix these things? The judge replies that Rent Court has nothing to do with the conditions of the home, that rent escrow is separate. Did you pay or not? Situations like this happen much too often in Baltimore and across Maryland. But a ruling from the Court of Appeals of Maryland changes that. The Court’s decision in Cane v. EZ Rentals affirms what the law clearly states: that tenants can defend against a failure to pay rent complaint by raising the landlord’s failure to address threats to health and safety in the home.

The November 29th ruling is a victory for the Public Justice Center’s Appellate Advocacy and Human Right to Housing Projects. Tassity Johnson, the PJC’s 2015-2016 Murnaghan Appellate Advocacy Fellow, argued the case this September, following housing attorney Matt Hill’s request for the Court to review the case. We also thank Thomas Davies (a former Murnaghan Fellow) and Rachel Wolpert from Maryland Legal Aid for their amicus brief in the case. We will now work with partners across the state to enforce this critical decision so that tenants are not punished for holding their landlords accountable.

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