Proposed State and County Legislation Demonstrates Growing Renter Movement
Hearings Scheduled in Rockville, Annapolis Over Two Weeks
Release Date: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Contact: Renters Alliance, 301-442-4332
Montgomery County, Maryland—Marking the first time in state and county history that renters have been recognized as a growing class of residents in need of support and protection, county and state elected officials are proposing an unprecedented array of renter housing policy and legislation. In his “State of the County” address last night, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett declared: “Thirty percent of Montgomery County residents rent their homes. Renters deserve a voice. I have worked to make sure they have one in my administration.”
This Monday, the Montgomery County Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development committee (PHED) will consider at least two proposals stemming from the county’s Tenant Work Group report and two new proposals by Council member Marc Elrich and Leggett. The County Executive’s proposal calls for publicizing landlords who raise rents above the County’s Voluntary Rent Increase Guideline (VRG). The VRG, which has no force of law, is frequently ignored by landlords who raise rents many times more than the VRG requests. Last year’s VRG was 2.8 %, while thousands of renters saw increases of 5-12 percent or more. Leggett also supports the TWG’s recommendation to make mandatory the county’s annual rental housing survey. Currently, the rental survey, conducted by the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, is a voluntary survey with no penalty for landlords providing false information. Leggett’s proposal makes the survey mandatory and provides for penalties for landlords who do not supply accurate data.
Elrich’s “Anti-Rent Gouging” proposal takes Leggett’s one step further by placing a cap on how much landlords can raise rents above the VRG without justification.
The PHED working session will be held Monday, February 25 at 2:30 p.m., Council chambers, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville. The session is expected to be fully attended by scores of renters from across the county.
In Annapolis, Delegate Sheila Hixson, who chairs the Ways and Means committee, is spearheading HB315 which calls for the enactment of just-cause eviction law, which requires landlord to renew annual leases without just –cause reasons not to, such as failure to pay rent or law breaking—and rent stabilization to protect renters from excessive rent increases.
The Environment Matters committee, which oversees housing legislations, will hold a hearing on HB315 Thursday, February 28th at 1 p.m in Annapolis.
In addition, Maryland legislators in the House and Senate will consider HB1308 and SB642, respectively. The bills reestablish the requirement that evictions be processed through the courts. Last year landlords won a won a shocking victory in with Nickens versus Mount Vernon Realty Group, et al, 429 Md. 53 (2012). The decision in this case gave landlords the power to proceed with an eviction without court process (See Attached Fact Sheet). In other words, they can now lock out a tenant when the tenant is not home. While a relatively rare occurrence, hundreds of complaints are being registered. The Public Justice Center’s Rental Housing Coalition, which includes the Renters Alliance, is urging the state legislature to support HB1308 and its companion in the senate SB642. Hearings before Environment Matters will be held March 6th and 7th respectively.
“The Renters Alliance supports the view that landlords should be mandated to follow due process of law through the courts,” said Matt Losak, Renters Alliance executive director. “Rental housing is not a temporary condition for tenants. It’s their home. We must change the idea that it’s ok for renters to be priced out year to year with excessive rent increases, or evicted either through non renewal of their leases, or through the heavy-handed actions of a landlord moving faster than due process. The stability and strength of our communities depends on changing this point of view.”
The Renter Alliance is a 501-C-3 nonprofit organization based in Silver Spring, 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. For more information about the Renters Alliance, visit its website at www.RentersAlliance.org.
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