Remembering Renters’ Rights Champion Hermoine “Money” Freeman; What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Rent Increase; Just Cause Eviction Wins in the UK

It’s #TenantTuesday, the day Commonwealth celebrates tenants and explores renters’ rights in Montgomery County

Remembering Renters’ Rights Champion Hermoine “Money” Freeman

Money-Freeman-Apt
Rest in Power Hermoine “Money” Freeman (1931-2019)

Commonwealth joins the Montgomery County Renters Alliance and all of Montgomery County in mourning the passing of Hermoine “Money” Freeman. Money was a co-founder of the Renters Alliance and the first Board Chair, as well as an educator and a community leader. She passed away March 5th after a long fight with a long illness. She was  87.

The Montgomery County Renters Alliance provided a moving remembrance of Money in a recent email newsletter, an excerpt of which is reproduced below:

Money and her late husband Alan were leaders of the Colesville Plaza tenants association in downtown Silver Spring. Through their efforts, they compelled the building’s owners and management company to comply with county codes including providing better building maintenance and cleaning, trash removal and garage repairs. The Freeman’s led residents to file suit against the landlord when they raised rents excessively and distributed defective lease renewal notices. After the the landlord refused to correct the notices, the Freemans refused to pay the increases and took the company through a withering eight-year legal battle. After her husband, Alan, as well as some of the other residents in the suit, passed away, Money pressed on and eventually prevailed in court. The tenants won a suit of more than $27,000.

In 2010, at the recommendation of the Tenants Work Group report, Money immediately stepped forward to co-found the Montgomery County Renters Alliance, Inc.–the first and only regional nonprofit dedicated exclusively to renter outreach, education, organizing and advocacy.

“Money was a determined force behind making the Renters Alliance the first organized voice for renters’ rights in Montgomery County and beyond,” said Matt Losak, co-founder and executive director. “Her common sense, sage wisdom, steady hand and sense of humor sustained us through many difficult times when powerful, well-financed forces attacked us for even the idea that renters should have the right to expect stable, quality, affordable homes. Thanks to Money, we not only weathered these storms, but we have grown to be the leading regional voice for renters rights with more than 30 allied organizations. We will sorely miss her.”

A private memorial service will be held in Chevy Chase this Friday. The Freeman family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Money’s memory to support the Renters Alliance’s mission. Click HERE to support the Renters Alliance.

You can subscribe to the Renters Alliance email newsletter HERE.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Rent Increase

When can your landlord increase your rent? And how much notice of the increase is required by County law? Knowing these simple rights can stop landlord-enforced displacements before they even happen. This legal information is taken from the Maryland People’s Law Library and the Montgomery County Landlord Tenant Handbook:

A landlord must give a tenant 90 days notice of a rent increase in a written statement, otherwise the increase is invalid and a new notice must be issued, resetting the timeframe for the eventual increase.

The notice of rent increase must also have the following:

  • The current rent, the new rent, and the percent change between the two rents
  • A statement that the tenant may ask the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) to review any increase deemed by the tenant to be excessive. This note may include our telephone number, 240-777-0311

A landlord cannot raise the rent during the duration of an existing lease. Rent can only increase when a new lease is negotiated.  

Knowing these basic facts can help stop an attempt to bypass YOUR rights!

JUST CAUSE EVICTION VICTORY IN THE UK

It seems like there are jurisdictions and whole countries enacting tenant protections popping up everywhere. Too bad Montgomery County’s lackluster State Delegation is too weak, ineffectual, and beholden to the Landlord Lobby to ride the rising wave of tenant power.

In the UK, so-called “Section 21 evictions” are the equivalent of “no-fault evictions” in the US. UK landlords have the right under section 21 to force an eviction without providing any justification or reason after the lease has expired. Now this predatory practice is set to be banned by the UK government.

Even the conservative head of the UK government, Theresa May, supports these tenant protections, “[Section 21 eviction] is wrong,” she said,  “…and today we’re acting by preventing these unfair evictions. This important step will not only protect tenants from unethical behaviour, but also give them the long-term certainty and the peace of mind they deserve.”

May’s remark stands in stark contrast to District 17 Del. Kumar Barve’s statement that Just Cause Eviction is “bad public policy.” It’s evident that the local conservative Democrats who recently killed Just Cause Eviction have been out-flanked on their left by the conservative Tory Theresa May. This is a badge of shame for our county representatives.

Additionally, earlier this year, tenants and advocates spearheaded by the Philadelphia Tenants Union (PTU) succeeded in passing a Good Cause Eviction bill. Although it was watered down during the legislative process, PTU is adamant that the bill is “just the first step” in further tenant protections and organizing.

Just Cause Eviction is gaining momentum across the renting world. It’s time Montgomery County caught up.

 

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