Maryland's High Court States that It Agrees with Brief Authored by Civil Justice, Issues Ruling that will Relieve Maryland Tenants from Millions of Dollars in Unlawful Interest

In a unanimous opinion issued this past Friday, January 19, 2018, the Maryland Court of Appeals (Maryland’s highest court) specifically stated that it agreed with the arguments made in a brief authored by Civil Justice Executive Director Joseph Mack and Civil Justice Board Member Benjamin Carney and issued a ruling that will save thousands of Maryland tenants from millions of dollars in unlawful interest.  

The case involves an unfortunately common practice by large Maryland landlords that, after evicting their former tenants who fall behind on rent, later sue those same former tenants for the amount of rent the landlord would have received had the tenants stayed in the property.  These judgments pile on massive burdens on the already struggling tenants.  On top of that, these landlords were frequently illegally charging a higher interest rate despite a statute saying that judgments involving residential rate should carry a lower rate of interest.  

The issue made its way to the Maryland Court of Appeals and Civil Justice authored a brief on behalf of several Maryland legal services nonprofits, arguing that any judgment that includes a portion of unpaid rent should accrue interest at the lower rate.  The Court of Appeals agreed, specifically stating in its opinion: “We agree, however, with the position of Civil Justice, Inc., the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, and the Public Justice Center, amici, that the phrase ‘a money judgment for rent of residential premises’ indicates that CJ § 11-107(b) applies to money judgments that are related to rentals of residential premises.”  Amber Ben-Davies v. Blibaum & Associates, P.A., Misc. No. 4, September Term, 2017 (available at http://mdcourts.gov/opinions/coa/2018/4a17m.pdf).  

There are tens of millions of dollars in unpaid judgments owed by thousands of former residential tenants to their landlords in Maryland, meaning this ruling will relieve thousands of economically challenged Marylanders from millions of dollars in interest over the years.  Civil Justice is proud to have played an important role in obtaining this ruling that will help so many Maryland consumers.


 

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