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E-Rent Pilot Builds on Maryland Judiciary Digitization Work

The Maryland Judiciary’s E-rent Pilot Program in Baltimore County enables landlords to electronically file failure-to-pay-rent complaints. This pilot is the latest step in Maryland's court digitization efforts.

A glowing blue graphic of a gavel made up of connected points represents court technology.
Baltimore County’s E-rent Pilot Program is streamlining how landlords file important documents, as part of the larger Maryland Electronic Courts (MDEC) project.

The E-rent Pilot Program is the next step of the MDEC initiative, which initially started in 2014 to create a digital case management system that allows all courts in the state to collect, store and process records electronically.

Court systems are increasingly adopting technology to be accessible from anywhere for an equitable experience for justice-involved individuals. While the trend really gained ground during the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefits seem to be pointing to longer-term adoption.

“That project … is designed to bring a paperless system to all four levels of our courts — both of our appellate courts and both of our trial courts,” said John Morrissey, chief judge of the district court of Maryland and co-chair of the MDEC initiative. “We’re currently in 22 out of 24 of the jurisdictions in Maryland; we’re going to go live in October with the 23rd.”

Landlord-tenant cases were not initially included in the MDEC project because of the way the state’s laws address the volume of filings. However, when it was time to add landlord-tenant cases, the pilot was a way to test and address any technical issues within Baltimore County before rolling it out to the next jurisdiction.

“I think it’s generally going to be an improvement overall to the landlord-tenant process for everybody,” he said, underlining that the pilot is doing well so far. Should that continue with increased volume, he will recommend rollout to the rest of the state. Morrissey expects this to happen within the next couple of months.

Prior to the broader rollout, the team will be working out any potential complications, allowing time to stress test the system on a smaller scale. For example, the electronic case management system is designed to accept one failure-to-pay-rent complaint filing at a time, but some larger landlords file all their complaints in one day — some adjustment on the part of the vendor corrected this issue, Morrissey said.

“We have pretty robust QA environments that we test on prior to putting into production,” he said, but as he explained, it is never exactly the same as the production environment.

As part of this rollout, there are two products: an intermediate user interface for smaller landlords and an e-filing product for larger landlords.

In addition to simplifying the complaint-filing process for landlords, the pilot will save time for clerks by enabling them to search the system for a case by name rather than having to know the case number. Morrissey said this digitization process will improve the court data management process, which has traditionally been reliant on paper case files.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the way courts operate in recent years, and Morrissey said that this MDEC electronic system gave courts the ability to work remotely, much more so than a paper-reliant system could have.

“Generally, we find that [electronically adding complaints filed to a queue] much more efficient than in the paper world, and I believe we’re going to see the same effects with this system.”

Eventually, e-filing will become mandatory for landlords in landlord-tenant case types in all MDEC jurisdictions.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.