Judge Ruling Boosts Evicted Tenants’ Rights and Protects Their Possessions After Eviction

Furniture lines the sidewalk following an eviction. Photo by 70023venus2009 via Flickr.

What’s happening?

A federal judge ruled against a 2007 Baltimore City ordinance allowing landlords to take immediate possession of any belongings remaining in a property following certain types of evictions, Madeleine O’Neil reports for The Daily Record. 

In her opinion, U.S. District Judge Deborah L. Boardman stated that the law violated the rights of evicted tenants, particularly those who were not properly notified of their eviction date and the possible loss of their belongings. The law also failed to establish recourse for tenants who wished to retrieve their possessions after an eviction.  

What are the details of the lawsuit at the center of the ruling? 

Baltimore residents Marshall Toddman and Tiffany Gattis were evicted from their home in 2019, and the lawsuit claims that the two were not given adequate notice of their exact eviction date. As a result, Toddman and Gattis lost several personal items, including family photos and cremated remains, the judge wrote in her opinion. 

While tenants evicted for failure to pay rent are given a concrete eviction date, others evicted for overstaying their lease don’t receive clear notice of their exact eviction date. Tenants are also mailed a warrant for restitution, which includes a statement specifying that possessions left on the premises will be considered abandoned, but Boardman concluded that the clause was too confusing to constitute adequate warning.

Following the court’s decision, evicted tenants will be able to sue the city to retrieve abandoned property. “It holds the city accountable for this really pretty vicious law,” said Joseph Mack, one of Toddman and Gattis’ lawyers. “(Tenants) will be able to move forward with a claim for damages for that injury against Baltimore City.”

Anything else I should know? 

The city ordinance was originally designed to allow landlords to promptly reclaim their rental properties and to keep evicted tenants’ belongings off of streets and sidewalks. In response to the decision, the city’s lawyers wrote, “Tenants, like Plaintiffs, who receive notice about the laws governing this process and ignore them should not be allowed to upend this goal.”

You can read more here. 

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