Maryland Attorney General renews call for increase to eviction filing fee

Maryland Attorney General renews call for increase to eviction filing fee

Due to the high number of eviction cases in Maryland’s courts, Brian E. Frosh (attorney general) urged state legislators to raise the landlords’ filing fee by at least $15 (with $80 as the Maximum). And, according to the Department of Legislative Services, Frosh’s proposal would raise $16.9 million for Maryland Legal Services Corp in the fiscal year 2023. Keep reading if you want to learn more about Frosh’s proposal, the landlord’s and legislators’ concerns, and more.

For Brian E. Frosh Proposal and his motivations.

For Brian E. Frosh, this measure might discourage landlords from initiating eviction proceedings that are too often used against Maryland tenants in times of financial trouble.

This year, Brian’s request is lower than his $120 increase fee proposal that died at the General Assembly in 2021- the proposal amid opposition from landlords. According to Frosh, new legislation should be introduced to collect these increased fees from the Maryland Legal Services Corp and direct them to groups providing free legal services to low-income Maryland tenants.

If approved (Senate Bill 223), this measure would take effect on June 1, 2022. It is important that we mention that: In addition to providing funding to the aforementioned groups, the Senate Bill 223 would also prohibit landlords from collecting additional deposit fees from their tenants as part of their leases.

Mr. Frosh also added that the number of eviction proceedings initiated by landlords is very high because, instead of demanding that their tenants pay late rent, landlords prefer to pay this small registration fee which is $15 throughout the state of Maryland, except in Baltimore ($25).

“We have landlords that are using the district court as a collection agency,” Frosh told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Unfortunately, this fee increase could negatively affect serious landlords, and it worries Ron Watson (Senator and member of the committee), Chris West, landlord representatives, and several other members of this committee.

Chris West, Erin Bradley, Ron Watson, landlord representatives and other member of the committee Concerns

Ron Watson points out that raising the fee by $65 would negatively affect landlords who own a few units and the ones who do not abuse the eviction filing process.  But M. Frosh countered his argument by saying that the proposed increase of the deposit fee is not to be seen as a penalty for landlords. It’s just one of several methods of dissuasion.

But for Senator Chris West (R-Baltimore County and a member of the committee), this method of dissuasion could unnecessarily increase, for the benefit of delinquent tenants, the amount of time landlords has to wait to file an eviction notice. Indeed, during this period, the tenant’s financial situation may worsen.

Thus, according to West, higher fees could lead to more actual evictions and fewer eviction notices being filed. Moreover, Landlord representatives added that a large number of eviction requests from tenants should not be misperceived; they are simply the last resort because of the time and expense of the process and of searching for and preparing units for new tenants.

Erin Bradley added that Frosh’s proposal is a “Gentle way” of punishing landlords for exercising their rights. He added that this increase would challenge housing affordability for the tenant.