COVID-19: Maryland issues Executive Order Temporarily Halting Residential and Commercial Evictions

Maryland Governor Lawrence J. Hogan issued Order Number 20-04-03-01 on April 3, 2020 (the “Order”) that amends and restates an order previously issued on March 16, 2020 that, among other things, temporarily prohibits evictions of tenants suffering substantial loss of income due to COVID-19. The Order expands the coverage of the original order to temporarily prohibit commercial and industrial evictions.

The Order applies to Section 8—401 of the Real Property Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland (the “Real Property Article”) (i.e. repossession following failure to pay rent when due and payable) and Section 8-402.1 of the Real Property Article (i.e. proceedings upon breach of lease) and provides that:

“No court shall give any judgment for possession or repossession, or warrant for restitution of possession or repossession of residential, commercial, or industrial real property, if the tenant can demonstrate to the court, through documentation or other objectively verifiable means, that the tenant suffered a Substantial Loss of Income.”

Under the Order “Substantial Loss of Income” is defined as:

“Substantial Loss of Income” means (i) with respect to an individual, a substantial loss of income resulting from COVID-19 or the related proclamation of a state of emergency and catastrophic health emergency, including, without limitation, due to job loss, reduction in compensated hours of work, closure of place of employment, or the need to miss work to care for a home-bound school-age child; and (ii) with respect to an entity, a substantial loss of income resulting from COVID-19 or the related proclamation of a state of emergency and catastrophic health emergency, including, without limitation, due to lost or reduced business, required closure, or temporary or permanent loss of employees.

The Order further clarifies that the fact that the tenant, or any person permissibly cohabiting with the tenant in accordance with the terms of the lease, has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 or is under investigation for COVID-19, shall not constitute a “clear and imminent danger” of the tenant’s or other person’s doing harm to themselves, other tenants, the landlord, the landlord’s property, or any other person on the property, for the purposes of establishing that there has been a breach of the lease.

The Order provides that the prohibitions regarding evictions are in effect until the state of emergency is terminated and the catastrophic health emergency is rescinded.

It is noted that the Order only temporarily prohibits landlord eviction actions and does not expressly relieve or reduce any tenant payment obligations (including late fees, interest or other damages) or prohibit the application of any security deposits or the drawing of any letters of credit. Although not addressed in this Alert, it is further noted that the Order expressly prohibits the initiation of residential foreclosures, but does prohibit commercial foreclosures.

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

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If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact Thomas Totten, Gordon Knox or any member of the COVID-19 Strategy Team or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.