Councilmember Elrich was the lead sponsor and
Councilmembers Navarro and Hucker were co-sponsors
of Bill 19-15 that will impact leases,
licensing and rent adjustments
ROCKVILLE, Md., November 29, 2016—The Montgomery County Council today unanimously approved amended Bill 19-15 that addresses issues with landlord-tenant relations. Councilmember Marc Elrich was the lead sponsor of the bill and Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Tom Hucker were co-sponsors.
The Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee, which is chaired by Councilmember Nancy Floreen and includes Councilmembers George Leventhal and Hans Riemer, held five worksessions on the bill that would make several changes to the landlord-tenant law principally aimed at enhancing the existing rights of tenants and improving the quality of rental housing through increased inspections. The PHED Committee heard from panels of stakeholders during three of the worksessions.
The Council staff report on the bill can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/z9mo2o4 .
“Passage of this bill is an important step towards enacting common sense reforms for tenants, who make up about one-third of our County’s residents,” said Councilmember Elrich. “This bill will help bring transparency to the leasing process, give tenants some additional information and rights and increase inspections of rental units. Recent events have demonstrated the importance of more frequent and thorough inspections. Too many tenants refrain from asking for repairs to their units, fearing retaliation from landlords. They deserve better—and this bill offers some help and fairness.”
Councilmember Navarro said: “Today, the Council has taken an important step to protect renters in Montgomery County. Bill 19-15 provides much-needed transparency in the leasing process and increased enforcement to ensure our residents live in safe, sanitary conditions. This bill increases stability for renters and implements important safeguards against landlords who choose to cut corners in maintaining their property. I am proud to have been an original cosponsor of this legislation and look forward to funding these new initiatives through our budget process.”
Said Councilmember Hucker: “This bill is a victory for the hundreds of thousands of residents who live in rental housing. Every Montgomery County tenant deserves a safe and healthy home, and today we are taking steps—by beefing up inspections and increasing transparency and accountability—to ensure irresponsible landlords cannot force any family to live in dangerous and unsanitary conditions. I am proud to have strongly supported this bill for the last year and to have worked with a broad coalition of housing advocates and community organizations to get it across the finish line. I am also grateful that the Council supported my amendments to create a vigorous inspection regime focused on the worst health and safety problems, as well as promoting transparency so that violations can be tracked.”
The major provisions of approved Bill 19-15 will:
- Provide tenants with greater transparency about their rights and obligations under a lease.
- Require the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (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.
- Focus ongoing enforcement resources on properties with significant health and safety issues and properties with numerous code violations.
- Provide clearer information about the state of rental units in the County via improved data collection and publication.
- Provide many benefits to tenants that should improve the stability and quality of their living arrangements.
Other provisions in the bill will:
- Require each lease to include a plain language summary of a tenant’s rights and responsibilities.
- Require DHCA to conduct a two-year intensive inspection schedule (twice the current number of inspections, prioritized by need).
- Require DHCA to provide annual reports to Council and County Executive about past and upcoming year inspections.
- Require certain properties to be inspected more frequently than the current triennial schedule (based on type and severity of violations).
- Require landlords to pay the cost of subsequent inspections, if a property needs multiple inspections for uncorrected violations.
- Require that tenants can make certain repairs when authorized by the DHCA director or his designee, if DHCA orders a repair and the landlord fails to correct the issue in the allotted time.
- Requires lease renewal terms of two years, if the landlord is offering renewal.
Approved Bill 19-15 also provides tenants with greater access to information including:
- Improvement of the availability of landlord-tenant handbooks.
- Requiring landlords to provide tenants with more information about utility bills in older buildings.
- Requiring landlords to give 60 days’ notice if the landlord intends to terminate the tenancy at the end of a lease term, and 90 days’ notice for all rent increases.
- Requiring DHCA to publish certain data from the annual rental housing survey on its web site.
- Requiring that tenant organizations be allowed to use available meeting space for free once per month.
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