Bill introduced to protect Maryland renters from abuse

 

On February 15, 2015

 

Annapolis – Sen. Victor Ramirez (D-47, Prince Georges County) is introducing a bill that will establish a working group to explore establishing the state’s first Maryland Rental Housing Authority. On the House side, Delegate Sheila Hixson (D-20, Montgomery County) is resubmitting a bill that calls for just-cause eviction protection. Delegate Jimmy Tarlau (D-47A, Prince Georges County) has introduced a bill that would grant access to apartment buildings for candidates seeking office to distribute campaign literature in apartment buildings. 

“We, as legislators, often ignore our residents who rent,” said Sen. 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 the Maryland community is kept stable and secure. That is why it is critical to create a commission to look into protecting renters and the whole rental community from instability and neglect.” 

Delegate Hixson, who chairs the House Ways and Means committee renters must be able to live free from intimidation and abuse “for seeking promised services and maintenance, or organizing tenants associations.”    “Renters make up more than 50 percent of the residents of downtown Silver Spring, Bethesda and Rockville and rental housing construction continues at a hurried pace,” she added. 

Just-cause eviction law requires a landlord to provide a legitimate reason for not renewing an annual lease. 

“Renters pay taxes, vote and participate in the social, economic and political lives of our communities,” said Delegate Tarlau. “We need to ensure that a renter has the same access to information in the political process that all residents have.” 

According to U.S. Census data, the percentage of Maryland residents living in rental housing has grown from about 10 percent just two decades ago, to more than 30 percent on average. Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are seeing rental populations surging upwards to 50 percent in the urbanizing areas of these counties. Furthermore, rental housing construction statewide continues to expand. 

In 2014, the Maryland legislature heard testimony on an unprecedented number of bills requiring landlords to provide just-cause before refusing to renew a tenant’s lease (SB181/HB0843). 

In the House, there was a bill 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) and the Senate companion to the anti-retaliation bill (SB799/SB800). Sen. Ramirez’s original bill to establish the state’s first Maryland Rental Housing Authority within the executive branch was also considered. 

“As the population of renters in our state continues to grow dramatically, the abuses and intimidation by 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 homes due to excessive and unpredictable rent increases and unjust eviction. They also fear retaliation in other forms such as reduction in building services, maintenance and quality of life.” 

But, the Apartment Owners and Buildings Association (AOBA), which represents landlords, is opposed to all three bills. 

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 25 labor, community, religious and civic organizations as well as thousands of renters across the state. For more information about the Renters Alliance, visit www.RentersAlliance.org.