2021 | Government

Bill proposes extending rent relief by delaying increases, late fees

Landlords would have guidelines to follow

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The County Council is considering a bill to further limit rent increases, and prevent landlords from charging late fees through the middle of 2022.

Council Member Will Jawando proposed the bill, which keeps those provisions in place for one year after Maryland’s state of emergency ends. Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration had said many emergency mandates and restrictions would end July 1, but the bill would actually apply through at least Aug. 12, 2022, as the governor renewed the “declaration of the state of emergency and existence of catastrophic health emergency” for one month on July 12.

Landlords cannot charge late fees during that period, but do not need to forfeit fees collected during the pandemic, according to the legislation. Landlords also cannot increase rent more than the “voluntary rent guidelines.”

Those guidelines — set each year by the county executive — are based on the rental component of the Consumer Price Index for the Washington-Metropolitan Area, according to the county website.

In 2021, it is set at 1.4%, so landlords could not increase rent by more than that amount through at least Aug. 12, 2022, unless the rate changes at some point next year.

Jawando previously proposed a bill in the same posture during the pandemic, which the County Council passed. But it is set to expire 90 days after Hogan ends the state of emergency.

Renters have faced many hardships due to losing their jobs or a substantial amount of income due to the coronavirus pandemic, and will need more time to fully recover from the economic fallout, he said during Tuesday’s meeting. 

“If you compare this to the low point of the Great Recession … it’s on par,” Jawando said. “While we’ve had some steady job growth in some industries, there’s still a wide gap and we have a long way to reach full recovery.”

The bill is expedited legislation, meaning it would take effect as soon as County Executive Marc Elrich signs it.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com