This #TenantTuesday we’re summing up two bills before the County Council that will have a positive impact on tenants. You can take a direct step in furthering tenants rights by contacting your representative about newly introduced Bill 18-19 (see item #2 below).
#1. Tenants may soon be empowered to end their lease due to persistent health/safety violations
The final hearing for Councilmember Tom Hucker’s Bill 6-19 (Landlord-Tenant Relations – Termination of Lease – Tenant Health and Safety) will take place in the afternoon. We previously summarized the measure back in April. In short, the bill allows tenants to terminate their lease if the landlord does not correct a housing code violation that affects their immediate health and safety within 30 days after being ordered to do so by the Dept. Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA).
The bill has the support of the whole County Council, the Montgomery County Renters Alliance, Maryland Sierra Club, Greater Washington Area Association of Realtors, and many more. The Apartment and Office Building Association (AOBA) submitted ten pages of testimony opposing the bill on the basis that it was “premature” and the County Code already permitted DHCA from revoking a rental license in instances of unfixed health and safety violations.
#2. Act now to demand Councilmembers Riemer, Glass, Albornoz, and Friedson support tenant relocation payments
We don’t have evidence Councilmember Will Jawando subscribes to our Patreon, but his new Bill 18-19 (Landlord Tenant Relations – Relocation Expenses) does bear some resemblance to the anti-displacement policies from Portland, Oregon we summarized for subscribers last month (now unlocked on our Patreon here).
Portland requires a landlord to pay $2,000-$4,500 in relocation expenses to tenants displaced by no-cause evictions or rent increases of 10% or more. The city also created a policy and program to give housing preference and assistance for particular tenants, specifically tenants affected by racially-motivated housing segregation and development.
Councilmember Jawando’s Bill 18-19 would require a landlord to pay a tenant up to four months rent in cases where a code violation that affects the tenant(s) immediate health and/or safety. It includes a housing preference policy; once the repairs are finished, the landlord must offer the displaced tenant “right of first refusal” to return to their home.
If passed, this will be a small but substantial step forward for tenants rights in Montgomery County. Currently, Bill 18-19 has co-sponsors Sidney Katz (District 3), Tom Hucker (District 5), Nancy Navarro (District 4 and current Council President), and Craig Rice (District 2).
This is an impressive list of co-sponsors, but some notable names are missing: Councilmembers Hans Riemer, Evan Glass and Gabe Albornoz (all At-large), as well as Andrew Friedson (District 1).
The bill is tentatively scheduled for a hearing on July 16, 2019, likely before the Planning, Housing & Economic Development (PHED) Committee. Councilmembers Andrew Friedson and Hans Riemer sit on the PHED. Councilmember Riemer chairs the committee. Getting their support could be critical to passing the bill cleanly through the committee and, eventually, signed into law.
You can contact them with a brief message of support like the one below:
Dear Councilmember __Riemer/Glass/Albornoz/Friedson__:
I am writing you as a concerned citizen of _your district or municipality_ regarding Bill 18-19 – Landlord-Tenant Relations – Relocation Expenses. I encourage you to support Bill 18-19.
Tenants who are forced to leave their homes through no fault of their own should not bear the cost of moving alone. Providing relocation expenses punishes negligent landlords who choose to put their tenants’ health or safety in danger. Further, requiring a landlord to provide the tenant with a right of first refusal to re-occupy the rental housing mitigates the potential for tenant displacement.
Having your health and/or safety put at risk by someone else’s negligence is enough abuse to suffer. It’s time we supported tenants who suffer from careless landlords. A relocation payment and the right to return home is a start. Please support Bill 18-19 – Landlord-Tenant Relations – Relocation Expenses.
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