Q: Can I be evicted without going to court?
I rented from someone who said that I could move in quickly but I had to clean dwelling and since basement was flooded I had to do that too. My rent was discounted with utilities included for just $650 monthly. I needed a place quickly for me and my 2 teenage sons. Mail was still being delivered for them which I asked about and they said they were taking care of it. About mid January a person came passed and one of my sons were the only one home and was told they were from the landlord and wanted to know if anyone was living here. I tried to get in touch with who I rented from but I couldn't. I assumed that the person who came would be in touch with me. I never heard from anyone since even my landlord until a eviction notice was just posted on my door today with a notification of eviction in my landlord name for April 5th from the sheriff. What can I do?
A: You list DC as where you are asking the question, but you posted this on the Maryland forum. My answer will apply to both, except licensing of rental properties are different as well as the eviction court procedures, in each jurisdiction. It sounds as though your "landlord" does not own the property, and is a tenant themselves, has not paid rent, and the real owner/landlord has filed to repossess the property from that tenant. You need to immediately get in touch with the lawyer for the actual landlord and let them know you are subletting the basement with your sons. You also would need to file a motion in the eviction court action seeking relief from the court. You have no possessory right to the premises if the actual tenant (the person who rented the basement to you) had no legal right under their lease to sublet to others (I doubt he/she did, as that right is typically excluded in most residential leases). Accordingly, your presence in the basement is more like a squatter, subject to summary eviction proceedings for unlawful detainer of the premises. However, you may be able to argue that you are entitled to legal notice and proper service of notice to vacate. That may buy you some time, but ultimately, you will lose as you have no legal right to the premises. I also doubt that you have an actual written lease, but if you do, that may help your argument to request proper legal notice and service of legal process prior to eviction. In the end, you will be evicted, so whether it is worth trying to stay for a bit more time, or simply start looking for alternative housing at once, you will need to move eventually. One thing you should do, if this property is in the District, is check to see if the property is licensed as a residential rental property. If it is not currently licensed as a rental, you can get the eviction proceeding dismissed. Rental housing must also be locally licensed in Montgomery and PG Counties, but you will have to check other county codes for other jurisdictions because not all jurisdictions in Maryland require licensing. A landlord may not file a case in landlord-tenant court to enforce a lease if the property is required to be licensed and it is not.
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