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State Legislative Round Up
MoCo High School Student Produce Documentary on Renter Issues
Montgomery County Voluntary Rent Increase Guidelines Announced for 2017
Renters Alliance Board Members Making their Mark
In the News

State Legislative Report: Landlords push to combine utilities and fees with rent, shorten the time to evict tenants; Pro-Renters Bills Move Forward

Del. Rosenberg Sponsors Rent Court Reform "Consensus Bill"
Del. Waldstreicher Moves to Strike "Under Seal" provision in common leases
Dels. Lafferty and Mcintosh Propose Ending Discrimination Against Renters Based on Source of  Income

Several bills concerning landlord and tenants have come before the Maryland State Assembly this session. Some helpful to tenants, while two other bills propose shortening the time it takes to evict tenants. House Bill 1487, proposed by Delegate Sandy Rosenberg (D-D41, Baltimore City) is a a rent court reform bill that will clarify a number of issues outlined in a fact sheet prepared by the Public Justice Center (PJC):
  • Creates a minimum of 7 days notice before trial.  Current state law has no minimum.
  • Sets trial date on 14th day after filing. Current law sets trial on 5th day – unjust in law, virtually impossible to implement in practice. 
  • Creates clear grounds for judge to grant at least 7 days’ postponement so that either party can bring documents to prove a claim or defense.
  • Removes from current law language that bars renters from raising (and judges from weighing) evidence of the landlord’s failure to comply with the Md. Lead Risk in Housing Law.
  • Instructs judges to dismiss cases in which the landlord is shown to be evading the Lead Poisoning Risk law. 
  • Sets a one-year statute of limitations on filing rent claims.
  • Bars doubling up claims for rent that already form part of an open judgment or warrant of restitution.
The court reform bill came out of a summer study process led by Renters Alliance allies at the PJC and Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) as well as landlords, tenants and judiciary and social services. Testimony will be given tomorrow in support of the bill by the Renters Alliance, the PJC, JUFJ and other allies.

House Bill 994, sponsored by Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher (D-D18, Montgomery), would strike the use of the term "under seal" --a legal term often inserted quietly into leases allowing landlords to pursue civil damages for up to twelve years after an alleged lease violation occurs. Most civil suits allow for a three year statute of limitations. According to the Public Justice Center, a Renters Alliance ally, who has seen such delayed cases, tenants are taken by surprise years later with little ability to gather evidence in their own defense, including witnesses, dead or long gone, and physical evidence long since covered over.

The Home Act (HB172 and SB0728), is a bill that would make it illegal state-wide to discriminate against renter applicants solely on the basis of income. This bill  is being proposed by Delegate Stephen Lafferty (D-42A, Balt. City) anhttps://gallery.mailchimp.com/e5a3e055f31c1170ef855ec71/images/960eae15-33db-47c5-acbd-349213153b8c.jpgd co-sponsored by Delegate Maggie McIntosh (D-D-43, Balt. City)and its companion in the senate is sponsored by Senator Will Smith (D-D-20, Montgomery). Currently it is illegal in Montgomery and Frederick counties. The Renters Alliance has been part of the Home Act Coalition, headed by the Homeless Persons Representation Project and the PJC.

Delegate Christian Miele (D-D8, Baltimore County) has proposed House Bill 0327 to require landlords to provide at least 24 hours notice before entering your rental home for routine maintenance, and to require that that notice include the specific time of entry and the repairs to be made.

And on the negative side....
A bill to shorten the time it takes to evict a tenant (SB-706) was introduced by Senator Wayne Norman (R-D-35, Harford and Cecil) to the Senate Judicial Proceeding's committee. Opposition testimony was given by the PJC, the Renters Alliance as well as a letter in opposition by the Office of Attorney General Brian Frosh.

A similar bill SB1014, proposed by Senator Joan Conway (D-D-43, Balt. City), is intended to expedite proceedings in wrongful detainer cases (when a tenant stays in possession of the apartment beyond the lease term). According to sources monitoring the bill, it is also unlikely to receive strong opposition.

PG High School Students Make Documentary on Rental Housing Issues for AP Course

Eleanor Roosevelt High School students Joana Hernandez, Demmi Morris and Viola Costen have produced "Hidden Issues of Apartment Houses," a 10 minute documentary featured on YouTube focusing on the issues faced in pursuing their rights to quality, affordable rental homes. The project was part of their AP studies program. The documentary includes interviews with property management and tenants as well as comment from Renters Alliance Executive Director Matt Losak. The documentary can be seen on YouTube by clicking the link above.

Montgomery County Announces Voluntary Rent Increase Guideline for 2017

The Montgomery County Voluntary Rent Increase Guidelines (VRG) are announced at the beginning of each year and reflect what the County believes is a fair target for annual rent increase. For 2017, the announced recommended increase rate is 1.8%. The problem many renters face is a belief that landlords are required keep rent increases at or below this level. "Nothing could be further from the truth," says Matt Losak, Renters Alliance Executive Director. " The VRG's are a recommended guideline that many landlords frequently ignore."

Tenants continue to report to the Renters Alliance regular annual increases of between 4-8%, with some as high as 12% or even higher. For those tenants being offered month-to-month lease options or newly required 2-year lease options (at each renewal), increases can be as high as 60% plus fees. Except in Takoma Park, which maintains a successful rent stabilization program, County landlords can raise rents to any amount without legal repercussions. For many tenants, repeated high rent increases mean being priced out of their homes.

Renters Alliance Board Members Making their Marks

The Renters Alliance Board of Directors is drawn from across the County and from key sectors of the renter community. Activists all, the board includes voices, perspectives and expertise from politics, veterans affairs, Labor, government, minority, disabled and immigrant communities as well as seniors and retirees, the LGBTQ community, legal justice and civil rights organizing--all of which combine into a common voice in support of renters' rights, housing stability and security.

In recent news, the Renters Alliance is pleased to announce that Board Member Jheanelle Wilkins, a community activist and civil rights organizer and member of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, among other notable affiliations, was selected to fill the delegate seat vacated by Will Smith, who has moved into Congressman Jamie Raskin's state senate seat. Board Member William Roberts, Esq., president of the Montgomery County Young Democrats, has been appointed by Congressman Raskin to be his Legislative Director, while board member Vaughn Stewart, Esq. an attorney at the prestigious law firm of Wilmer Hale, represented the Renters Alliance on Lorna Vergilli's popular television and radio broadcast, Montgomery Al Dia,to talk about the recent passage of renter protection bill 19-15.

In the News
Landlords are taking over the housing market, 2.23, Seattle Today
Residents Fault Landlord for Problems at Sayles Place, Washington Post, Feb. 26
Tax Dollars Keep Flowing To Landlord DC is Suing Over Housing Conditions, Washing Post, Feb. 27
Public Interest Podcast with Jordan Cooper Featuring Renters Alliance Executive Director, Matt Losak, Jan. 11

The Montgomery County Renters Alliance, Inc., is the only regional nonprofit dedicated exclusively to renter outreach, education, organizing and advocacy. We are a 501-c-3 nonprofit organization registered in the state of Maryland.
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Our mailing address is:
P.O. Box 7773
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The Montgomery County Renters Alliance, Inc., is an independent 501-c-3 nonprofit organization.
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