County Executive Isiah Leggett made history on Monday signing into law the first renter protection legislation package since the establishment of the Commission of Landlord and Tenant Affairs in 1972. The legislation marks a turn in County recognition of issues surrounding rental housing security, stability, affordability and quality.
“A process of renter organizing and public education that began eight years ago has finally yielded a solid dividend,” said Matt Losak, executive director of the Montgomery County Renters Alliance, Inc., and chair of the Montgomery County Tenants Work Group from 2008-2010. “For the first time in decades, renters’ voices are being heard. This legislation marks a good first step.”
Renters Alliance allies and renters caution not to consider the bill as satisfying many challenges renters continue to face to their quality of life, security and affordability. Tenants still face unpredictable and sometimes out of reach rent increases that cause many to lose their homes, while others live in constant fear of retaliation for demanding promised or required serves and maintenance.
“We are moving forward with renewed confidence that our voices are being heard,” said Chris Perry, Vice Chair of the Renters Alliance board of directors. “We need to continue our efforts to organize tenants and provide education and outreach to tenants and landlords of their rights and responsibilities. We also need to continue urging the Council and the Executive to add to this bill the kinds of protections that keep communities stable, including just-cause eviction law, and required building security, especially for seniors.”
Renter Protection Bill 19-15 is the product of the Tenants Work Group (TWG) whose 2010 report to the Council and County Executive contains recommendations later selected for this legislation. The TWG, the first such County effort, was convened by County Executive Isiah Leggett, urged by a petition of over 1,000 renters and Council Member Marc Elrich, who helped steer the effort and participated in the group. In 2012, the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) provided a memo selecting those recommendations that DHCA agree with. But two years later, when these provision had not yet been acted up, Council Member Marc Elrich decided it was time to propose legislation that would enact the least controversial recommendations. Despite the intent to put forward non controversial provisions, the bill was discussed and debated over five work sessions held by the Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) committee over 18 months. The final bill was passed by unanimously by the PHED, and later by the full Council on November 29th.
Gathered in Mr. Leggett’s offices for the signing were Renter Protection Bill 19-15’s co-Sponsors, County Council Members Marc Elrich, Tom Hucker, Nancy Navarro as well as Council Members Hans Riemer, Nancy Floreen and Council President Roger Berliner. In addition, Renters Alliance Board Members Chris Perry, Justin Chappell, Jheanelle Wilkins were joined by Renters Alliance Allies from UFCW 1994, school board member Jill Ortman-Fouse, renter activists Victoria Price and Alan Cassidy as well as CASA organizer, Renato Mendoza and county renters.
Bill Provisions to Take Effect in Two Phases
Bill 19-15’s general provisions will take effect 91 days after the signing date on March 13. The requirement that landlords provide certain information concerning electric and gas utility billing takes effect 180 days after the act becomes law (June 10, 2017). General provisions of the bill include:
Read the entire bill in final form HERE.
Photo Credits: Kathy Wright/Office of County Executive
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