There are two bills that will be heard in Annapolis by the Environment and Transportation Committee on March 7 at 1:00 PM, that would introduce additional protection for tenants. These bills are important to creating an equitable legal playing field for tenants in rent court:
HB1346, introduced by Delegate Lafferty (D-District 42A) defines “rent” as “the fixed periodic sum for use and possession of the leased premises, and does not include any additional payments due from the tenant to the landlord under the lease.” You can read the full text of HB1346 here.
If HB1346 is successful, landlords would no longer be able to add late charges, utility bills, environmental citations, or other extra fee when filing Failure to Pay Rent cases. Charges that are not rent would have to be recovered in small claims court. In most instances, for Baltimore City renters, if a tenant is able to pay overdue rent in full — even on the day of eviction — the tenant is allowed to remain in the home. Continuing to allow landlords to pile on extra fees and charges could push more tenants into homelessness.
HB1487, sponsored by Delegate Rosenberg (D-District 41) contains several additional tenant protections that would level the playing field for tenants in rent court. You can read the full text of HB1487 here. Of particular importance:
- Allows a tenant to have a case dismissed if certain information contained on the lead certificate is incorrect.
- Changes the number of days that have to pass before a rent case can be heard in Landlord Tenant Court to 14 days, from the current five days. This would give tenants additional time to assemble necessary documentation, and also come up with the money to pay any overdue rent.
- Gives judges the discretion to adjourn a rent dispute, in order for either side to assemble witnesses or additional documentation necessary to prove or disprove either side’s claims. This is particularly important for tenants, as there is no “right to counsel” for civil cases in Maryland. Most tenants, especially low-income tenants, defend themselves in court while the landlord or property management company sends their attorney.
Please email or call the members of the Environment and Transportation Committee today, and let them know you support these bills, and additional protection for tenants.