Last updated: April 9, 2020 at 1 p.m. ET
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is disrupting daily life across the State of Maryland and changes are happening at an unprecedented rate. These changes include adjustments, delays and rescheduling of the courts, cases, and legal aid programs throughout Maryland. One thing is holding constant – Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service’s (MVLS) commitment to helping you navigate the “new” civil legal landscape.
If you have questions about your specific case, it’s always best to check with the court. However, as of right now, here are some of the protections implemented to help Marylanders who are struggling.
Foreclosures of all kinds are on hold. There is no specific date the hold will be lifted. This includes foreclosures for mortgages and reverse mortgages. A lender can file a foreclosure action, but it won’t proceed until the Court says it can. Some lenders are providing greater forbearance options.
If you are behind on your mortgage or concerned you may fall behind on your mortgage, call a housing counselor through the HOPE Hotline at 1-877-462-7555.
Tax sale, a two-step process for homeowners owing property taxes and/or property charges, is also on hold for the time being. Step one, where a lien is placed on your home and sold to an investor, would have occurred on May 18 in Baltimore City, but is postponed until further notice, but it is not postponed in several other counties. Stage two, where the lien holders can take possession of your property if you did not redeem it within the allotted time slot, is on hold until the courts reopen. At this time, courts are closed until May 1 and more residents will have time to gather funds to pay off liens.
Eviction cases are on hold, but this doesn’t mean that rent isn’t owed to landlords. It does mean that if you owe money to your landlord or your landlord doesn’t want you living in your home anymore, the landlord cannot have you removed from the property until after the hold is lifted.
Unscrupulous landlords may try to illegally evict tenants since they cannot use the courts right now, either by placing your belongings on the street or by turning off your utilities. This is a crime in some counties, but not in others. Call the Maryland Courts Self-Help Center at 410-260-1392 if you experience this issue.
Utilities cannot be shut off right now and most are not charging late fees. If you owe money for water, gas, or electric, your services cannot be shut off right now. If you are experiencing an issue with your utility provider, contact your city or county council person or your county council person.
Scammers are trying to take advantage of the number of people at home right now. If someone comes to your home claiming they are from your utility provider and needs to see your bill, do not give it to them.
If you are worried about falling behind on your bills, talk to your creditors. A number of them are being flexible right now – providing forbearance or delayed payment options. But you have to ask to get these options.
There are plenty of other scammers trying to find people at home including scammers calling from fake charities or illegal debt collectors. Tell them to send a request in writing and look it up later. If they won’t send it in writing, it’s definitely as scam and you should hang up.
If you’re not sure if any of these situations apply to you, start by calling the Maryland Courts Self-Help Center at 410-260-1392.