Council Passes Bill Allowing Tenants to Break Lease Under Certain Conditions

Tenants in rental units would be able to break a lease without penalty under certain conditions, according to a bill passed yesterday by the County Council.

The council unanimously passed Bill 6-19, Landlord-Tenant Relations – Termination of Lease – Tenant Health and Safety, which would permit the termination of a lease if a landlord does not correct violations that adversely affect the tenant’s health and safety.

Under the terms of the bill, if the Department of Housing and Community Affairs finds a violation in either the tenant’s unit or a common area and orders the landlord to correct it, the landlord has 30 days to do so.

If the landlord fails to make the correction, the tenant protection is triggered.

“No one should have to live with roaches, mice or mold, or without access to electricity, water or heat,” said lead sponsor Councilmember Tom Hucker (D-District 5) in a press release.

“Unfortunately, too many renters face these and similar challenges affecting their fundamental well-being and safety,” he added.

The violations include:

  • rodent or insect infestation affecting 20 percent or more units in a building
  • extensive and visible mold growth on interior walls or surfaces exposed to the occupied space
  • windows that do not permit a safe means of egress
  • pervasive and recurring water leaks that result in chronic dampness or mold growth
  • personal property damage in more than one unit, or
  • lack of one or more working utilities that were not shut off due to tenant non-payment.

The bill, which was cosponsored by the other eight councilmembers, was inspired by residents of The Enclave apartments. The complex, located at New Hampshire Avenue and Columbia Pike, across from the White Oak Shopping Center, was cited for more than 2,600 housing code violations by DHCA this past winter.

Insect infiltration is one of the conditions that could trigger the protection. Photo from Public Domain Pictures.

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