2021 | Government

Elrich, other leaders call on Hogan to extend eviction moratorium

Federal moratorium recently kept in place through June

Elrich is pictured at a press conference on March 25, 2020.

File photo

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and leaders from surrounding counties have called on Gov. Larry Hogan to extend the state’s eviction moratorium through September.

The moratorium prevents landlords from evicting residents who can’t pay rent because of financial impacts, or other factors, from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Renters received some relief from the looming federal expiration on eviction protection with the Biden administration’s decision on Monday morning to delay the expiration until June. It was originally set to expire on Wednesday.

In a letter to Hogan on Wednesday, Elrich, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said that the number of struggling low-income renters and impending eviction filings has created a “dire” situation.

In an email Tuesday morning, Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, did not say whether Hogan has responded to the county executives and if he would consider their request.

“The state’s eviction moratorium is tied to the state of emergency, and there are no plans to lift the state of emergency at this time,” he wrote.

On Monday, the state extended its moratorium on residential foreclosures until May 4. It was initially set to expire on Wednesday.

In Montgomery County alone, more than 14,000 eviction filings are on backlog.

“If no action is taken, there will certainly be an increase in homelessness,” they said in the letter. “The risk of homelessness is most prevalent for marginalized populations, particularly Black and brown households who disproportionately experience evictions and homelessness.”

The state’s moratorium does not apply to tenant “holding over” cases (renters who remain in the leased space after the expiration of the lease) and lease non-renewals. District Court of Maryland data shows that the number of tenant holding over cases increased 85% from August to December 2020, according to the letter.

Renters must show up in court to provide documentation under the moratorium, but less than 3% have done that. Instead, they have left their units — an action that the county executives attributed to pressure from landlords and fear of the government.

“To prevent thousands of individuals and families from being kicked out on the streets, we are urgently requesting both an extension of the State eviction moratorium and expansion of its application,” they said.

The county executives noted that although the state and local jurisdictions are receiving more than $400 million from the federal government for emergency rental assistance, applications and funds will not be available to renters until April for the counties and May for the state.

Another $318 million in federal assistance is expected to go to Maryland once the initial funding has been distributed to the state.

The county executives also asked that “given the low rate of tenants who appear in court to make their defense and the tenant holding over loophole” that all evictions be canceled through September for failure to pay rent and tenant holding over cases.

“Evictions should still occur for forcible entry and detainer,” they said.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.