Bill Would Prohibit Residential Rent Increases During COVID-19 Emergency

Landlords would not be permitted to increase residential rents during the COVID-19 emergency under the terms of a bill introduced yesterday by Councilmember Will Jawando (D-At Large).

Expedited Bill 18-20, Landlord-Tenant Relations – Rent Stabilization During Emergencies (the COVID-18 Renter Relief Act) also would prevent rent increase notices for 30 days after the emergency ends.

In addition, any notices of a rent increase sent during the emergency would have to be rescinded by the landlord.

“I had considered adding commercial property to the bill,” Jawando said during his introduction. “But to just keep it simple and to focus on the core of the issue . . .we’re going to focus on residential.”

Consideration of adding commercial property to the bill led to protests from thee business community, including a strongly worded letter co-signed by the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce.

“We found that not only are landlords across Montgomery County holding rents at current levels, but they are also going above and beyond to work with tenants who cannot make their rent,” the groups wrote in reaction to the proposal.

“My office has received reports of substantial increases in rent and significant late fees being added in some properties,” Jawando said in an emailed press release. “We need to ensure that vulnerable residents, many of whom are already dealing with heightened anxiety and heightened risk of infection, do not also have to worry about large, unanticipated rent increases and about whether they can afford to stay in their dwelling places during this crisis.”

Council President Sidney Katz (D-District 3) and Councilmembers Craig Rice (D-District 2) and Nancy Navarro (D-District 4) are cosponsors. If passed, the legislation would require the Department of Housing and Community Affairs to post a notice about the rent increase prohibition during emergencies, along with additional information about the emergency.”

The council plans to hold a public hearing and vote on the bill on April 21 at 1:30 p.m. 

Image from Wikimedia Commons licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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