In its 5-2 decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that actions for back rent under residential leases are subject to a three-year period of limitations regardless of whether the lease includes provisions stating that it is a contract under seal subject to a 12 year statute of limitations. The Holland Law Firm represented Gregory Smith at every stage, from the District Court to Court of Appeals. We were joined in the Court of Appeals by Scott Borison of Legg Law Firm, LLP The court also held that to the extent that such provisions might be considered an agreement to modify the otherwise applicable period of limitations, such an agreement would be contrary to the State’s landlord-tenant law and unreasonable under the particular circumstances of this case.
Smith v. Wakefield, LP
Maryland Court of Appeals, Feb. 27, 2019
From the Headnotes to the Opinion:
*Landlord-Tenant Law –Residential Leases –Statute of Limitations.The statute of limitations applicable to actions for back rent under residential leases is three years pursuant to Maryland Code, Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article, §5-101, regardless of whether the lease includes a seal or languagethat purportsto convert it into a contract under sealsubject to a 12-year period of limitations under Maryland Code, Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article, §5-102.
Limitations –Modifying Statutes of Limitation by Agreement.The three-year period of limitations applicable to actions for back rent under residential leases is not subject to modification by agreement, in light of Maryland Code, Real Property Article, §8-208(d).*
As the Court explained, the landlord’s attempt to extend the statute of limitations from 3 to 12 years “would quadruple the period of time within which an action for back rent could be brought . . . Many businesses or government agencies would not have retained records relating to a contractual relationship that ended so long ago. It seems even more unlikely that an individual tenant like Mr. Smith would have retained the necessary records for so long.”
The Court concluded that an agreement to extend the statute of limitations in that way would violate Maryland’s landlord-tenant laws, and would be unreasonable, and therefore unenforceable at common law.
If you are being sued beyond the statute of limitations, feel free to contact us for a review.