2020 | Gaithersburg

Gaithersburg approves emergency rent relief during COVID-19 pandemic

Rent can’t be increased by more than 2.6% during state of emergency

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The Gaithersburg City Council voted at its meeting Monday night to cap residential rent increases at no more than 2.6% during the COVID-19 pandemic and for 90 days after the state of emergency ends.

The council voted three to two to approve the change to the city code, which was effective immediately. Council Members Neil Harris, Mike Sesma and Robert Wu voted in favor of the 2.6% cap while Council Members Ryan Spiegel and Laurie-Anne Sayles voted against it.

The city code amendment:

  • Prohibits landlords from increasing residential rent by more than 2.6% during Gov. Larry Hogan’s declared state of emergency and for 90 days after it ends
  • Requires landlords to tell tenants to disregard any notice of rent increases above 2.6% during that time period
  • States that a violation of the ordinance will be considered a municipal infraction

The council was originally scheduled to vote on an amendment that would have banned all residential rent increases in the city, but Council Member Robert Wu proposed changing it to 2.6%. That figure, he said, is in line with Montgomery County’s Voluntary Rent Guideline – a number set by the county executive on March 1 each year that is based on the rental component of the Consumer Price Index for the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area.

Sayles and Spiegel voted against the measure because they favored no rent increases during the emergency. When Spiegel asked the city’s Neighborhood Services Division Chief Kevin Roman what the median monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the city was, Roman replied that was about $1,400, which would mean that 2.6% would be a roughly $36 increase.

Spiegel said an extra $36 per month might not sound like a large increase, but the number can add up over a period of several months during the pandemic.

Sayles said she worries about people who are out of work and are relying on unemployment benefits.

“It may not be a lot to us, but to people who don’t have jobs and are juggling a lot of responsibilities, a 2.5 to 2.6% rent increase could mean a lot of sacrifices have to be made,” she said.

Gaithersburg’s rent cap is similar to a measure the Montgomery County Council passed in April, which prohibits rent increases above 2.6%. The county’s measure extends the rent cap period to 180 days after the state of emergency ends and exempts new leases.

The Rockville City Council passed an ordinance in May that freezes rent increases through the end of July. Starting Aug. 1, landlords can increase rents by a maximum of 2.6%.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com