Landlords don’t care about you. To them, you are nothing more than a business arrangement, a necessary part of the profit food chain but still not one entitled to meaningful rights.
Montgomery County landlords are no different, as a recent Bethesda Beat article makes clear. Reporting on proposed bill MC 22-19 from Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (District 20 — Silver Spring and Takoma Park), Dan Schere explains that Wilkins’ bill “would restrict evictions to certain types of tenant violations and guarantee tenants a minimum of 60-days notice prior to being evicted.” Schere correctly––though it would appear accidentally––characterizes Wilkins’ position as one of compassion: “Wilkins also hopes to prevent tenants from being evicted for retaliatory reasons, or from having a landlord decline to renew their lease.”
The accidental compassion ends there as much of the rest of the article is reserved for a jeremiad from members of the petty bourgeoisie.
Ron Wineholt, the vice president of government affairs for the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, leads the cry. During the hearing, Wineholt emphasized that a rental contract is “not a life estate.” Rather, it “is a tenancy, and when I sign that contract, I sign it with the knowledge that the tenant agreed that the landlord can walk away.”
When asked by incoming Del. Gabriel Acevedo (District 39 — Montgomery Village, Woodfield Road etc.) “whether tenants deserved ‘due process’ before being evicted,” he responded: “What’s due process? This is not the tenant’s property.” [our emphasis]
Wineholt should be taken at his word: due process is a right reserved for property owners. Wineholt’s condescension not only dehumanizes the individuals without whom landlords wouldn’t exist, it is generally parroted by what passes as local media.
Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat swallowed the well-funded landlord lobby talking points eagerly in his recent article. Because Schere did not see fit to include any of the testimony in support of the Just Cause Evictions bill, we will fill the stark void.
The following people and organizations showed up at the Rockville County Council Building to the December 3, 2018 State Delegation hearing:
Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins, who spent the summer running numerous, county-wide, public events on the issue of just cause eviction which resulted in her bill MC 22-19.
John Marshall of Maryland Legal Aid, who represents low-income Montgomery County tenants against landlords twice at week during Landlord Tenant court.
Julio Morillo of CASA (formerly CASA de Maryland), Nancy Schull of the Women’s Democratic Club, Jeffery Rubin of Jews United for Justice.
Nikki Thompson of Job Opportunities Task Force took the opportunity during her supportive testimony to point out a 2016 Harvard study that showed individuals who experience housing instability showed a 11-22% increase in job instability.
And Susan Boaz, a blinded disabled woman who serves as second vice president of the Charter House Residents Council, a tenants association of the same-named senior building in downtown Silver Spring. Her testimony was striking:
“I have been a disabled renter for 40 years. My home, its security and stability are extremely important to me…Yet I and the rest of our residents live in constant fear of retaliation for simply pursuing our rights. We understand that within just 60 days, notice our leases can be non-renewed without any stated reason. Imagine the chilling effect this knowledge can have on a community such as mine!”
The social benefits and positive attributes of Just Cause eviction legislation deserve to be heard. Yet, Bethesda Beat apparently does not agree. Besides the statements of two state delegates, they left all the testimony in favor of Just Cause on the cutting room floor. Instead, they reported the whining of the landlord lobby, and the one-sided criticisms of delegates such Ben Kramer of District 19 — who himself is a landlord.
And the objections to the MC 19-22? The Montgomery County Renters Alliance provides a useful list:
Speaking for the opposition, the Apartment and Office Buildings Association (AOBA) lobbies for the landlord industry along with representatives from banking and landlord lawyers. Leading apartment managers and owners from Southern, Grady, Cove, Kettler, Morgan and Kay properities–the latter still in litigation over the Flower Branch explosion that killed seven tenants including two children as the result of a gas explosion. A Kay property, Flower branch has been cited by County Code enforcement with hundreds of code violations for a subsequent inspection of only 20% of the property. [our emphasis]
The sides on this issue are clear: an person or family’s right to a home, a transparent and accountable system of tenancy in Montgomery County or a deadly system of unbridled rentier capitalism and property rights over all.
by Erik O. Write and P. T. Weet
Commonwealth first wrote about Just Cause Eviction in October. Read it here
Erik and P. T. are leftist organizers for tenants and homeless rights in Montgomery County
Watch the State Delegation Just Cause Eviction hearing here, it’s the first hearing on the video and is a trove of good information: https://montgomerycountymd.gov/CCM/mdstatedelegationhearings.html