District 20 Legislators to Sponsor Eviction Protection Bill

Two state legislators from District 20 revealed plans yesterday to introduce legislation that would help protect tenants struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D) and Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D) will be the lead sponsors of the COVID-19 Eviction Relief Act in the 2021 session of the state legislature.

The bill would:

  • Expand and extend the Gov. Hogan/CDC orders to protect renters from eviction throughout 2021.
  • Provide financial relief for landlords through a statewide program that matches state/county funds
  • Prohibit non-renewals of leases non- without a good cause (rent delinquency and lease expiration are not considered good causes for lease termination), and
  • Prohibit late fees, interest charges, and rent increases throughout the emergency.

“For nine months, staying secure in our homes has been our protection against a deadly virus,” Wilkins said in a press release. “Now, hundreds of thousands of Marylanders are at risk of losing this protection. Unprecedented times call for bold action to keep families housed during this pandemic and beyond.”

The announcement came during a virtual press conference with Attorney General Brian Frosh, legislators, housing advocates and affected residents hosted by Renters United Maryland, a coalition of more than 30 leading housing advocacy organizations.

The COVID-19 Eviction Relief Act is part of a “Housing Justice Package” of state legislation discussed at the press conference.

Other proposed bills would overhaul the eviction process by introducing a statewide right to legal representation, creating an eviction diversion program in the district courts, and requiring landlords to utilize rental assistance and mediation before resorting to eviction.

In addition, a proposed Homeowner Relief Act of 2021 would extend and codify a foreclosure moratorium through the state of emergency, for both homeowners and small landlords, as well as require mortgage servicers to grant forbearance relief through the state of emergency, among other provisions.

RUM was co-founded in 2017 by the Silver Spring-based Montgomery County Renters Alliance, the Public Justice Center, Jews United for Justice and Communities United.

Graphic from pixabay.com published with permission

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