What does a tenant do when their health and safety are at risk due to a landlord’s negligence? All too often in Montgomery County, they wait out whatever time remains on their lease. This means they continue to pay for substandard living conditions and are trapped in a hazardous living environment. Even when a lease is near its end, it can take months for a tenant to find a new living space that suits their needs at a cost they can afford.
After revelations of extensive code violations and an investigation into troubled properties, this vicious entrapment may end. District 5 Councilmember Tom Hucker has proposed Bill 6-19, which would allow tenants to terminate their lease if health and safety code violations go untreated by the landlord.
Testimony on Tuesday March 26, 2019 was uniformly supportive of the bill.
A resident of The Enclave, a Donaldson Group owned property in the news for its numerous egregious code violations, presented his experience living in multiple buildings where his health was adversely affected. An MCPS teacher at Burnt Mills Elementary, a school attended by many Enclave children, testified to the negative health effects she has witnessed in her students. Matt Losak, of the Montgomery County Renters Alliance, and Marcus Meeks, of Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland also presented testimony in favor (view the testimony here, Bill 6-19 is item 5 starting around the 60 minute mark).
Hucker’s bill would require Montgomery County leases to allow a tenant to terminate the lease if the landlord does not correct a violation of applicable law that adversely affects the immediate health and safety of the tenant in the tenant’s unit or a common area available for use by the tenant within 30 days after being ordered to do so by the Department.
Health and safety impacts defined by the county include: rodent or insect infestation affecting 20% or more units in a building, extensive and visible mold growth on interior walls or surfaces exposed to the occupied space, improperly installed window units, water leaks, dampness, and gas/electric/water/sewage services being cut off for reasons besides non-payment.
The bill is currently co-sponsored by the other eight Councilmembers, and will likely be approved by the Executive. But it also deserves community support. Take a moment to write your councilmember that we rep tenants om #TenantTuesday.
To contact the Montgomery County Council: Copy and paste these addresses into a blank email, so that you’re emailing the full county council:
Councilmember.Albornoz@montgomerycountymd.gov; Councilmember.Friedson@montgomerycountymd.gov; Councilmember.Glass@montgomerycountymd.gov; Councilmember.Hucker@montgomerycountymd.gov; Councilmember.Riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov; Councilmember.Jawando@montgomerycountymd.gov; Councilmember.Katz@montgomerycountymd.gov; Councilmember.Navarro@montgomerycountymd.gov; Councilmember.Rice@montgomerycountymd.gov; County.Council@MontgomeryCountyMD.gov
Copy and paste this text into the body of the email, and edit it as you’d like – then send!
Dear Councilmember ______,
This #TenantTuesday, I am writing to support Bill 6-19 – Landlord-Tenant Relations – Termination of Lease – Tenant Health and Safety.
Montgomery County recently learned the extent of “trouble properties” that exist in the county. 2,600 housing code violations that posed serious risks to tenants’ health and safety were discovered at one building alone.
Landlords and property managers are given time and incentives to fix their violations. But tenants shouldn’t have to wait for landlords to face fines for negligence. Tenants have a right to terminate unfair contracts when their home safety is ignored.
It’s wrong for Montgomery County renters to be trapped into leases where the property present threats to their health and safety. I encourage you to support Bill 6-19.