Renter Insecurity Growing with Demographic Changes
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Contact: Matt Losak, 301-442-4332
Annapolis—In a sign of growing concerns about renter security in the state of Maryland, the General Assembly is considering an unprecedented number of bills aimed at protecting renters from landlord retaliation, intimidation and abuse and helping renters stay in their homes. The legislation includes measures to eliminate a landlord’s ability to evict a tenant without just cause, ending the practice of forcing renters to buy renters insurance naming the landlord as a beneficiary, stopping landlords and property management retaliation against renters, and a tax credit bill aimed at affording renters the ability to claim rent as a state tax deduction in the same way homeowners can claim mortgage interest and an expansive bill to establish the state first Maryland Rental Housing Authority.
“As the population of renters in our state continues to grow dramatically, the abuses and intimidation of too many landlords and their property managers can no longer be ignored,” said Matt Losak, executive director of the Renters Alliance. “Renters fear losing their home due to excessive and unpredictable rent increase and unjust eviction. They also fear retaliation in other forms such as reduction in building services and maintenance and quality of life.”
According to U.S. Census data, the percentage of Maryland residents living in rental housing has grown from about 10% just two decades ago to more than 30% on average. Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince Georges counties are seeing rental populations surging upwards as 50% in the urbanizing areas of theses counties. Further, rental housing construction statewide continues to expand.
So far, the Maryland legislature has heard testimony on a bill to require landlords to provide just-cause before refusing to renew a tenant’s lease (SB181/HB0843) and a bill to expand the income tax credit for lower income renters (SB0354/HB0681). On Thursday, February 27th at 1 p.m. , the House will hear bills to close loopholes in the state’s anti-landlord retaliation laws (HB/1108/HB1143), a bill to end the practice of forcing renters to buy renters insurance naming the landlord as a beneficiary (HB1280). The following week on Wednesday March 5th a 1p.m. the Senate companion to the anti-retaliation bill will be heard (SB799/SB800) as well as an expansive renter protection bill proposed by Senator Victor Ramirez of Prince Georges County, to establish the state’s first Maryland Rental Housing Authority within the executive branch an office of the “tenant advocate” with power to stabilize rents, among other responsibilities.
“We, as legislators, often ignored our residents who rented,” said Senator Ramirez. “The statistics indicate a growing population of middle class renters, a majority of whom are retirees, federal government employees, working families and professionals. We simply must make sure that this growing and important part of Maryland communities is kept secure and stable. That is why this legislation is so important today.”
Renter activists caution that the number of bills does not necessarily correlate with the likelihood of their success through the legislature this year. However, the sheer volume and scope of these measures is a solid indication of an expanding movement to protect renters.
In another sign of a growing movement, the Renter Alliance will hold a Montgomery County candidates forum Wednesday, March 5 from 7-9:30 p.m. at the Silver Spring civic center. All of the County Executive and County Council candidates—incumbents and challengers—have committed to attend (an advisory will be issued later this week).
The Renters Alliance is a 501-C-3 nonprofit organization based in Montgomery County, Maryland. The organization was founded in 2010 in response to a recommendation by the Montgomery County Tenants Work Group report which called for the formation of an organization dedicated to providing tenant education and advocacy. Today, the Alliance includes more than 20 labor, community, religious and civic organization and thousands of renters across the state. For more information about the Renters Alliance, visit www.RentersAlliance.org.
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