E-Alerts & Press Releases

State courts cannot “rubberstamp a landlord’s decision to evict”

New decision from the Court of Appeals

August 28, 2017: If your landlord was about to evict you, you’d want the judge to consider your side of the story, right? Wesley Hosford didn’t get that chance. The trial court was not interested in hearing that Mr. Hosford was a longtime resident of the property – 28 years lived alone in his Baltimore apartment. The court didn’t need to hear that he was a survivor of quadriplegia, dealing with paralysis in his extremities, daily pain and getting around using a wheelchair. The court was only interested in the marijuana plant found in Mr. Hosford’s bathroom when the apartment complex was treated for a bedbug infestation. It did not matter that the related criminal citation had been dropped – the landlord wanted him out. Assuming that federal law trumped state law in the case, the trial court felt it didn’t need to consider Mr. Hosford’s circumstances and had to approve the landlord’s request to evict.

But Mr. Hosford wouldn’t give up. Represented by Maryland Legal Aid, Mr. Hosford took his case all the way to the Court of Appeals of Maryland. His persistence paid off this August when the Court ruled that state courts cannot “rubberstamp a landlord’s decision to evict.” The Court held in Chateau Foghorn v. Hosford that state courts must consider whether a landlord’s claim that a tenant’s alleged breach of a lease agreement is “substantial” and “warrants” eviction before approving a landlord’s request. Agreeing with an amicus brief from the Public Justice Center, Homeless Persons Representation Project, and Disability Rights Maryland, the court ruled that landlord/tenant law has historically been left to states to determine what is best for its citizens. Although federal law gives discretion to federally subsidized landlords to bring eviction proceedings, those proceedings must be in accordance with state law, and ultimately a court has the right to review a landlord’s grounds for eviction, consider equitable factors, and ultimately decide whether an alleged breach of lease is so substantial that a person should be kicked out of their home. This victory confirms that Maryland law is intended to work closely with federal law to provide safe housing for all citizens and that landlords do not have the authority to evict tenants without meaningful court review.   

« Back