With his removal from office less than two weeks away, Gov. Marvin Mandel is preparing to move to a $675-a-month rental house near Annapolis and hoping to return to the private practice of law.

W. Dale Hess, one of Mandel's closest friends and a co-defendant, said yesterday that the governor has signed a one-year lease on a house in the Glen Oban subdivision of Severna Park near Annapolis not far from where former Vice President and Maryland Gov. Spiro T. Agnew moved after he left office convicted of a crime.

Other Mandel Friends say the government has discussed returning to his old law firm in Baltimore - at least for the moment - in order to earn his living.

Mandel won't comment publicly about his plans, but Acting Gov. Blair Lee said Thursday that the Mandels are "close" to completing negotiations on a place to live.

Thom L. Burden, who is serving as press spokesman for both Mandel and Lee, said yesterday that he expects to be able to release Mandel's plans next week.

Ronald K. Peterson, owner of builder of the contemporary house that Mandel wants to rent, said "this week that he hopes to vacate the five acre estate "as soon as possible."

The four-bedroom home overlooking the Severn River also has a kidney-shaped swimming pool, guest house and stable. It sits back from the road in a deeply wooded area in a subdivision of $150,000-and-up custom homes.

Because sentencing on a felony charge means almost certain disbarment, it is not clear how Mandel will pay the rent. Lee said shortly before Mandel's conviction last month on federal charges of mail fraud and racketeering that his predecessor does not have "two nickels to rub together."

Mandel, 57, will be eligible for state pensions totaling about $14,500 a year, as a result of his service as governor ($12,500 annual pension) and member of the state legislature.

The governor is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 7 by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Love Taylor in federal court in Baltimore. Mandel faces up to 42 years in prison and fines up to $105,000 for his conviction on corruption charges on August 23.

Mandel's friends have set up a defense fund to pay his legal fees, but the trustee, Baltimore attorney, Konstantine J. Prevas, said this week that there will be no money left over after the legal fees, estimated as high as $500,000 are paid.

Mandel and his wife, Jeanne, and her children, are still living at Government House, the 54-room governor's mansion across the street from the State House in Annapolis, but have told Lee they will move out before sentencing.

Federal probation officers have questioned Mandel on two occasions while preparing a report for the guidance of U.S. District Court Judge Taylor. Even if Mandel is sentenced to prison next month, he is expected to remain free pending resolution of an appeal of his conviction to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Immediately after conviction, the Mandels retreated to a luxury condominium in Ocean City, owned by a friend, but in recent weeks they have been living at the mansion, packing and preparing for the move.

Mandel has been packing personal belongings in the second-floor governor's office at the Statehouse, from which he has been absent since last spring.

Some of Mandel's friends have been concerned about the governor's ability to adjust to life without a mansion, round-the-clock bodyguards, chauffeurs and servants and limousines after nine years as governor.

Mandel himself is described as unfazed by the protest, however, and friends say that he is going about the business of closing out his administration in a surprisingly blase fashion.

A decision Thursday by Lee to provide Mandel with state police protection for an indefinite period may also solve his transportation problem since troopers normally drive the subject they are protecting in a state car.

The governor's old law firm - Mandel, Rocklin and Franklin - provided him an income of between $40,000 and $50,000 annually before he took office in 1969. It is unclear just what sort of practice the governor could conduct before he is disbarred and whether he could maintain some affiliation after his disbarrment.