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Is landlord offering of a new lease with new terms, and also a price increase compared to the current lease, considered a written notice of rent increase when rejected by the tenant on grounds of the new terms included?

Within Baltimore City, notice of rent increase must be at least 60 days out and "written." (PDF, Baltimore City Code, Housing and Urban Renewal, Article 13, § 8-3(b)) (Overview from People's Law, MD)

For the purpose of the tenant’s rights under this section, any notice of a rent increase is presumed to be received by the tenant no earlier than 60 days prior to the expiration of the lease, unless a lease provides for a longer notice requirement not to exceed 90 days.

Rather than issue a written notice or addendum to the current lease, the landlord opted to issue a completely new lease with new terms. While we had informally agreed to a sensible price increase by text, I was initially unsure why a new lease was issued, as it would begin month-to-month. However, the start date would also be sooner than the typical 60 days to increase (but probably legal to supersede the current lease if signed). Ultimately, I have found the changes to be unacceptable and will not sign the new lease, both due to the changes proffered and on-going issues surrounding utility over-payments that must be resolved prior to my consideration of any new contract.

The current lease has reverted to "month-to-month" status, but with 60 days notice required to vacate/terminate. No notice to vacate has been issued and there is obviously no requirement to sign the new lease.

The question is then: must the landlord issue an explicit notice/addendum of rent increase on the current terms, or would the attempt to issue a new lease satisfy the requirement of 60 days written notice, despite the differing terms and unsigned status?

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After calling the free, legal help line at the Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library they offered general advice that:

  • Modifications requiring both parties signatures should be subject to a period of review equal to the notice for termination (60 days in my case). Of course, there is also no requirement to agree to such amendments, but they could not take effect sooner than the required period of review. Examples might include changing utility billing or other terms that are not simple rent increases.
  • Rent increases, while unilaterally allowed, both per the current lease (once/year up to +15%) and default tenancy laws, should also require the same period to take effect as modifications (here, 60 days). Again, however, a lease could stipulate otherwise and local jurisdictions may differ and nullify insufficient time to increase. While Baltimore City statutes remain generally ambiguous on that point [to my knowledge], the lease termination notice is 60 days, and that should be the required period here.
  • Simple notice of rent increase should be subject to the same notification media requirements as modification, but without the requirement of tenant signature. Typically this is certified mail, but a lease may stipulate other means of notification like email with confirmation of receipt by tenant.
  • Voluntary signature of a new lease/contract would generally be binding, even if not presented in accordance with notification or review periods. But again, while it would supersede, it could not be required.

My lease reverted to an indefinite "month-to-month" tenancy with 60 days notice to vacate/terminate, so I ultimately do not believe a new lease qualifies as notice of increase on the current terms. As an unsigned contract, it means nothing. As always, YMMV per your specific terms, so it helps to consult someone for your situation/jurisdiction.

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must the landlord issue an explicit notice/addendum of rent increase on the current terms, or would the attempt to issue a new lease satisfy the requirement of 60 days written notice, despite the differing terms and unsigned status?

Your information is inconclusive. You might be misapplying section § 8-3(b). It is more important for you to look at the terms of your current lease.

Section § 8-3(b) is premised on section § 8-3(a). This means that section § 8-3(b) is inapplicable unless you filed a complaint that resulted in the landlord receiving a violation notice.

Instead, see whether the increase contravenes section § 2B-51(c). If the affordability period of the unit has expired, then you need to read in detail what your current lease provides in regard to amendments to, or early termination of, the lease. The text where you agreed to the price increase and the switch to month-to-month seems unlikely to supersede your current lease, in part because the "informal" text you mention might fall short of compliance with section § 7-2 and possibly other statutory and/or contractual provisions.

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  • Most claim 60 days without citation other than § 8-3(b). E.g. No citation at Bay Property "That said, Montgomery County and Baltimore City require 60 days’ written notice, with some exceptions." Current lease simply states once/year increases up to 15% are allowable; however, amendments require written notice and all party's signatures. Also, the new lease violated § 7-3, but I'm not required to be re-writing/agreeing to a new lease... merely receiving proper notice of increase on the current terms. Thanks for your help.
    – prior_ire
    Jun 23 at 5:48

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