County launches “Renters Have Rights” campaign to assist tenants

Image taken from Montgomery County graphic.

County Executive Ike Leggett (D), joined by councilmembers and representatives of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs and the Housing Opportunities Commission, yesterday announced a new “Renters Have Rights” campaign of increased housing inspections and tenant outreach.

“Due to our recently updated housing law [Bill 19-15], the Department of Housing and Community Affairs now has expanded responsibilities and resources to step up their housing inspections and tenant advocacy,” said Leggett in a press release. “I urge tenants to call 3-1-1 if they have any concerns so that our housing department can inspect and enforce fixes, if needed, or otherwise offer tenants the help they request.”

The major provisions of the bill signed in December include:

  • Providing tenants with greater transparency about their rights and obligations under a lease. 
  • Requiring the DHCA to inspect a sample of every multi-family rental property over the next two years to establish baseline information about the condition of the county’s rental housing stock. 
  • Focusing ongoing enforcement resources on properties with significant health and safety issues and properties with numerous code violations.
  • Providing clearer information about the state of rental units in the county via improved data collection and publication.
  • Providing benefits to tenants that should improve the stability and quality of their living arrangements.

One of the attendees, Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At Large), the lead sponsor of the bill, said in the release, “This is the kind of pro-active approach that I hoped my tenant legislation would foster. I believe that this can make a meaningful difference for tenants, who account for one third of residents in our county.

“I recently saw one of the signs on a Ride-On bus directing tenants to contact the county if they are having issues; in the past, tenants often did not know that the county could offer help,” he added.

“No one in Montgomery County should have to put up with mold and mildew, with rats and roaches, and too often, we don’t hear from our tenants. I’m really confident that this will improve the lives of thousands of people in Montgomery County,” said Councilmember Tom Hucker (D-District 5), who attended the announcement and was a co-sponsor of Bill 19-15.

The “Renters Have Rights” campaign includes:

  • Ads on interior (English, Spanish) and exterior Ride On buses, bus shelters and County facilities;
  • Doorhangers regarding tenant rights and responsibilities to be distributed in multifamily apartment buildings;
  • Online communications via social media (Twitter, Facebook) and the county website, electronic boards (English, Spanish) and the Paperless Airplane;
  • Lobby signs posted in every multifamily apartment building, in six languages
  • Upcoming county-wide training sessions for landlords and tenants; and
  • A flyer to be distributed via elementary school backpacks in communities where renters are primarily located.

The updated housing law also encourages the formation of tenant associations that can represent renters and establish a relationship with property owners. And, it assures that landlords must offer a two-year lease at signing and renewal.

Tenants will be encouraged to contact DHCA to learn about their rights. DHCA is available to help mediate conflicts between renters and landlords and the updated law also includes funding for additional tenant advocacy staff.

People also can call the county’s 311 line for confidential, anonymous help.

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