Q: Are landlords allowed to go & maintain rental properties under the stay-at-home order in MD, if properties are vacant?
Tenants are moving out, but as an owner/landlord, I need to switch out locks, clean, and maintain the residential rental property. As an owner, if my rental home is vacated, am I allowed to go, under the current COVID-19 MD stay-at-home order?
A: At the outset, we are working under a totally new set of rules and while attorneys can attempt a reasonable stab at interpretation, no one has had the ability to see how things would play out if challenged. Under the Maryland order, employees and owners generally may go on-site to non-essential places of business "for only the following purposes (“Minimal Operations”): i.Facilitating remote working (a/k/a/ telework) by other staff; ii.Maintaining essential property; iii.Preventing loss of, or damage to property, including without limitation, preventing spoilage of perishable inventory." In other words, the rule under the stay-at-home order is generally "NO" unless there is a specified permissible reason to be out.
Without analyzing the specifics of your situation or offering any legal advice, securing vacant properties and replacing locks seems like it would likely fall in the category of "maintaining essential property" or "preventing loss ... or damage to the property."
Maryland's order contains the following steep steep penalties for violations: "Knowingly and willfully violating this order is a misdemeanor, and on conviction, offenders may be subject to imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both." So while permissible purposes may be carried out, caution should be utilized to make sure one doesn't run afoul of the rules.
While not legal advice, I hope that this helps.
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