Tomorrow, the Montgomery County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly will hear MC12-20 Montgomery County Stable Homes Act HB0821.
District 20 Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins, once again, stood up in support of tenant rights by submitting this legislation.
The Stable Homes Act will require landlords give tenants a justified and stated reason why the tenant’s lease will not be renewed.
While it often doesn’t garner the press and glamour of large-scale housing reforms, just cause eviction is a fundamental right for tenants to secure if they want safe, affordable, and long-lasting rental housing. It is also a tenant protection that landlords fiercely oppose, as it takes away an enormous amount of power over their tenants.
In a The New Republic, Brian Goldstrone profiled the Goodwin family of Atlanta Georgia:
[Cokethia Goodman] knew how easily the house could slip away. Seeking to avoid this outcome, she ensured that her rent checks were never late and, despite her exhausting work schedule, became a stickler for cleanliness. So strong was her fear of being deemed a “difficult” tenant that she avoided requesting basic repairs. But now, reading the landlord’s terse notice, she realized that these efforts had been insufficient. When her lease expired at the end of the month, it would not be renewed. No explanation was legally required, and none was provided. “You think you did everything you’re supposed to do,” she told me, “and then this happens.”
Cokethia Goodman was a victim of an unjust eviction. She had violated no laws, she was not late with her rent, she kept a clean house. She lived without basic maintenance out of fear of being labeled a “problem tenant.” Nevertheless, her landlord evicted her and the landlord was under no duty or requirement to disclose why.
Cities from Philadelphia, PA to Glendale, CA implemented “just cause” or “good cause” laws to end this predatory practice and to protect renters from eviction. New York State Senator and Democratic Socialist Julia Salazar plans to push for “good cause” legislation this year. Last year, the state of Oregon passed not only statewide rent-stabilization and the legalization of “missing-middle” homes (duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes & cottage/ADUs) but also statewide just cause eviction.
The importance of the law in conjunction with other tenant protections and rights cannot be overstated. Even if a tenant protection policy like rent stabilization is enacted, without just cause laws a landlord can routinely and arbitrarily end their tenants’ leases. While high rents may eat up 30% of a workers’ paychecks, unjust eviction leads to a number of social problems such as depression, poor health, and involuntary job loss.
Firmly building tenant power and affordable housing requires closing off the avenues landlords take to displace tenants. The Maryland Stable Homes Act does just that by mandating just cause evictions.
Del. Wilkins has put in a lot of effort and diligence into this legislation, which she first introduced in 2018. She held summer work-sessions, talked with local advocates, and even made appropriate concessions to alleviate good-faith concerns with the bill from fellow delegates.
Despite all her work, local bloggers derided her bill as “back door rent control.” Landlord lobbyists whined it was “fundamentally unfair.” Del. Kumar Barve, who chairs the Environment and Transportation Committee through which HB0821 must pass, called the bill, “bad public policy.”
But tenant activists know the truth. Landlords serve as judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to renewing leases and they answer for no one under the current system.
Take two minutes to email your representatives urging their support for MC12-20 Montgomery County Stable Homes Act HB0821 and we can strike a blow against the Landlord Lobby.
Use our auto-email template from our #TenantTuesday email or copy/paste the email below and send to your representatives.