Substantial Breach:The landlord may terminate a lease before its end if the tenant substantially breaches the lease. In order to do so, the landlord must send a notice to the tenant that states the tenant has breached the lease and indicates the landlord wants possession of the rental unit. If the tenant does not move out, the landlord may go to court and ask for eviction of the tenant. If the court determines that the breach by the tenant is substantial and warrants the tenant’s eviction, the court will issue an order evicting the tenant.

There are cases where the landlord’s actions allow the tenant to terminate the lease. Such a case is called a constructive eviction. A tenant should seek the advice of an attorney before attempting to terminate a lease because of the landlord’s actions, since the law in this area is complex.

Month-to-Month Tenancies:If a tenant is on a month-to-month lease, and is not federally subsidized, the tenancy may be terminated by either the landlord or the tenant after one month’s written notice (two months in Montgomery and Baltimore City). It is illegal for a landlord or tenant to terminate a lease for a retaliatory reason (for example the landlord terminates a lease because the tenant complains about the conditions of the leased property). However, it is not necessary for either the tenant or the landlord to give a reason for the notice under normal circumstances. Where the tenant is federally subsidized, the landlord may terminate the tenancy only if the landlord has a valid reason for terminating the tenancy.

Laws governing Landlord-Tenant relationship

Federal Law

Various federal, state and local laws and ordinances protect housing rights.

Federal statutes, like the Federal Fair Housing Act (42 USC 3602 et seq.), the Americans With Disabilities Act (42 USC 12101) and the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 USC 701) affect the state Landlord Tenants Acts.

The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal for a landlord to discriminate because of a person’s race, sex, national origin or religion. Some local laws forbid discrimination against unmarried persons, children, homosexuals, disabled persons or others.

Federal housing law provides such protections against discrimination as:

Advertising cannot contain any statement indicating a preference or limitation based on any of the protected classes listed above.
The landlord may not make any similar implication or statement.
A landlord cannot say that an apartment is not available when in fact it is available.
A landlord cannot use a different set of rules for assessing applicants belonging to a protected class.
A landlord cannot refuse to rent to persons in a protected class.
A landlord cannot provide different services or facilities to tenants in a protected class or require a larger deposit, or treat late rental payments differently.
A landlord cannot end a tenancy for a discriminatory reason.
A landlord cannot harass you.

It is important to remember that the federal housing statutes do not apply to all rental property. The main exceptions are owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer rental units (e.g., a duplex), housing offered by religious groups or private organizations for their members, housing designated for senior citizens, and single-family housing being rented without discriminatory advertising or a real estate broker.

State Law

Because landlord-tenant laws vary significantly depending on where you live, it’s important to check your state laws for specifics. Also, different localities have established landlord-tenant commissions to enforce these laws and may provide information about the local rules.


The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (VRLTA), Sections 55-248.2 through 55-248.40 of the Code of Virginia, establishes the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants in the Commonwealth. Only the courts can enforce those rights and responsibilities.

The VRLTA handbook, published by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, contains additional information and a copy of the law.


The Annotated Code of Maryland, Sections 8-101 to 8-604 govern the Real Property in general and Landlord and Tenant law in particular. Sections 4-401(4), (6) (i) (ii), (7) (i) (ii) establish an exclusive jurisdiction of District Court over landlord-tenant actions. Article 83B of Sections 2-801 to 2-907 provides for Elderly rental housing & rental allowance programs. Federal lower income housing assistance “sec. 8” and Designated housing for elderly and disabled families are covered by 42 U.S.C. § 1437 (f) and (e).

The landlord – tenant laws are enforced by Maryland Human Relations Commission. The commission may help to resolve disputes, conduct investigations, hold hearings, issue orders, award damages and civil penalties and seek the help of the court to enforce its orders.

Washington, D.C.

The Annotated Code of District of Columbia Sections 42-3201 to -3610 and Municipal regulations Title 14 Sections 300 to 311 regulate the landlord – tenant relationships that arise in Washington DC.

The District of Columbia Housing Code (DCHC) is enforced by the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs’ Housing Regulation Administration (HRA).