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Dimitry K., Esq.
Dimitry K., Esq., Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 41221
Experience:  Licensed in multiple jurisdictions. Experienced Landlord-Tenant attorney.
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I live in MD and signed a lease in 2005 with a self renewing

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I live in MD and signed a lease in 2005 with a self renewing clause. Also in same clause is written that rent increases $25 each year. However my rent has not increased since 2006, leading me to believe I was no longer on yearly lease but when I told my landlord I needed to move for a new job out of state (I have been unemployed since July) he insists I am liable for the remainder of the rent unless I find a new tenant to sign a new lease.

There is another later clause which was *never signed* regarding placement fee stating "If tenants find it necessary to vacate the premises prior to end of the rental agreement and seeks assistance of the Landlord to secure a new tenant, said tenant will be charged a fee of one month's rent. Tenants will be held responsible to pay rent until a new tenant signs a rental agreement or the current agreement expires."

I emailed the landlord to ask how long he needed after our move out to ready the place for a new tenant (since no maintenance has been done in 7.5 years!) and he is insisting the new tenant should move in the day after we move out. There are ceiling tiles in every room with water damage (and mold) that I know he was written up for and never replaced. The cabinets in the kitchen are literally crumbling apart and I have been asking for years to have them replaced. When the bathrooms were redone the month after I moved in the contractors cut holes in the walls that were never fixed. I'm afraid he's going to try to stick me with the cost of the remaining 6 months rent as well as repairs that are not my responsibility. How screwed am I?
Thank you for your question. Please permit me to assist you with your concerns.

If I may ask, this is a residential lease, correct? Also, since 2006 did you ever sign anything as a renewal?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Yes, this is a residential lease. No, I haven't signed anything since the original agreement in 2005.

Thank you for your follow-up, Karina.

In that case you aren't 'screwed' at all, as per your comments. Residential leases are not permitted to be 'self-renewing'. Even a self-renewing clause has to be signed to be valid, so the fact that you haven't signed anything since 2005 makes you an 'at-will' tenant, specifically a 'month-to-month' tenant. So long as you give the landlord 30 days in writing, you are free to leave. And if he refuses to return the security deposit to you without cause, you would be able to take him to court and seek punitive damages of up to 3 times that amount he improperly withheld from your fees. I would also suggest that inform the landlord that you will film the state of the units and explain what was put there by the landlord, and that if he attempts to stick you with the bill, you will contact the city and have them send an inspector for the premises.

Good luck.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Not to be picky, but are you very sure that I would be considered month-to-month? The renewal clause was signed with the original lease, just that the other provision of same clause has not been enforced (the rent increase) since the first renewal (rent did increase once). I have been checking around and can't find anything stating that leases need to be re-signed upon renewal here in MD.

MD state Attorney general does say regarding lease renewals:

"An automatic renewal provision in a lease must provide a space for the tenant to give written acknowledgment agreeing to the provision. If the landlord cannot show your signature, initials or witnessed mark acknowledging that provision, the landlord cannot enforce an automatic renewal of the lease."

Since I initialed this space originally in 2005, is it still valid?


You are not being nit-picky at all. State law governs contracts that require the parties to actively endorse and agree to an extension. In other words, you have to sign something stating that you agree to adhere to an another period under the lease. If you do not sign anything, the agreement automatically turns into a month-to-month agreement if you remain on the premises. That is the position under common law for such agreements, which is why you were not able to find anything about it.

Notice that the MD state Attorney states what I have stated, without an endorsement or a signature, the agreement is not binding and you are considered month-to-month. In addition, since the lease was modified (there was no rent increase), you can argue that both parties acted that this was a month-to-month lease since no changes were ever implemented as per under the agreement.

Good luck.

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