Community Remedies for Properties with Drug-Related Activity
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Remedies, including eviction, may be available if any property (residential or commercial, including mobile homes) is being used for drug-related activity, which Section 14-120 of the Real Property Article of the Maryland Code refers to as a "nuisance." Specifically, a "nuisance" means a property is used:
- by people who come for the specific purpose of illegally administering a "controlled dangerous substance";
- for the illegal manufacture or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance or "controlled paraphernalia";
- to illegally store or concealment of a controlled dangerous substance in sufficient quantity to reasonably indicate an intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled dangerous substance or controlled paraphernalia; or
- for prostitution.
A "controlled dangerous substance" and "controlled paraphernalia" is defined in Md. Code, Criminal Law § 5-101.
NOTE: The definition and meaning of "nuisance" can vary depending on the specific context or situation. This definition of "nuisance" specifically applies to actions brought under Section 14-120 of the Real Property Article.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 14-120
Who Can Sue?
An action for relief may be brought in District Court by:
- the State's Attorney of the county where the nuisance is located;
- the county attorney or solicitor of the county where the nuisance is located;
- by a community association where the nuisance is located; or
- a municipal corporation where the nuisance is located.
"Community association" is:
- a non-profit association, corporation, or other organization of community residents, operating exclusively to promote community welfare and improvement, and is either tax exempt under federal law; OR
- a nonprofit association, corporation, or other organizations comprised of residents of a contiguous community defined by specific geographic boundaries and operated for the promotion of the welfare, improvement, and enhancement of that community.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 14-120(a); (b)
Who can be sued?
A legal action may be brought against:
- a tenant of the property where the nuisance is located;
- an owner of the property where the nuisance is located; or
- an operator of the property where the nuisance is located.
An "operator" means a person that exercises control over the property and includes a property manager or any other person that is authorized to evict a tenant.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 14-120(a);(c)
In addition to the usual service of process required by state law, the plaintiff must have a notice posted in a conspicuous place on the property within 48 hours of filing the complaint. The notice must indicate:
- the nature of the proceedings,
- time and place of the hearing, and
- name and telephone number of the person to contact for additional information.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 14-120(e)
An action brought under this law must be heard within 14 days after the parties have been served.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 14-120(l)
At least 30 days before an action under this law is brought concerning commercial property, the owner of the property and the tenant, if any, must have received a notice from a person or community association entitled to bring action that a nuisance exists. In Baltimore City, the notice must be given 15 days before the action. The notice must state the date and time of day the nuisance was first discovered, and the location on the property where the nuisance is allegedly occurring. Copies of the notice must be either hand-delivered to the owner and to the tenant or sent by certified mail to both owner and tenant.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 14-120(d)
Whether or not an adequate remedy exists at law, the court may, after a hearing, issue an injunction and order other relief. This may include:
- ordering a tenant who has knowledge of the existence of the nuisance to vacate the premises within 72 hours;
- restoring possession of the premises to the owner if tenant and owner are both parties to the lawsuit and the tenant has failed to comply with a court order issued as part of the lawsuit (If the court orders the premises restored to the owner, the court will instruct the sheriff or constable to execute the order within 5 days.); or
- if the owner knew of the existence of the nuisance and is party to the lawsuit, the court may order the owner to submit for court approval a plan to ensure, to the extent reasonably possible, that the premises will not be used for a nuisance.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 14-120(g)
A community association that is the prevailing plaintiff in an action brought under this law may be awarded court costs and reasonable attorney's fees.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 14-120(k)
Evidence of the general reputation of the property is admissible to corroborate testimony based on personal knowledge or observation, or to corroborate evidence seized during execution of a search and seizure warrant, but it is not sufficient on its own to establish the existence of a nuisance.
Relief may be ordered by the court even if the nuisance had been discontinued at the time of the filing of the complaint or at the time of the hearing.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property § 14-120(j)
An appeal may be filed within 10 days after the date of the court order or judgment.
Read the law: Md. Code, Real Property § 14-120(n)