Baltimore City Council Bans Rent Increases During Declared Emergencies | WYPR

Baltimore City Council Bans Rent Increases During Declared Emergencies

May 12, 2020

Baltimore City Hall. On Monday, the Baltimore City Council passed a bill to ban rent increases during declared states of emergency.
Credit AP/Patrick Semansky

A Baltimore City Council bill to prevent landlords from increasing rent during declared emergencies passed Monday night. More than half of Baltimoreans rent their homes. 

The bill, called the Baltimore City COVID-19 Renter Relief Act, was first introduced by City Council President Brandon Scott in late April. 

The bill prohibits landlords from raising rent during the ongoing state of emergency and retroactively cancels rent increases that have gone into effect after March 5. 

The Renter Relief Act will be sent to Mayor Jack Young’s desk, where he may sign it into law. 

A controversial proposed amendment to the bill, introduced by Councilman Eric Costello at Scott’s request, to exempt increases for the months of March, April and May of this year was not put on the floor on Monday night.

The amendment was originally requested by the Maryland Multi-Housing Association, which represents landlords and property managers. The group supports rental assistance from the government and opposes the bill, which would decrease some landlords’ revenue. 

The idea behind the amendment was to “avoid complications with leases that have already been renewed since the Emergency Order from the Governor on March 5,” Costello wrote on Facebook.  

"While many are struggling to make ends meet, rent increases will be one less thing that our residents will have to worry about during this crisis," Scott said Monday night. "I am excited to have had this bill pass through the council, and I urge Mayor Young to sign the Renter Relief Act into law without delay."

Jurisdictions across Maryland have introduced rent legislation of their own, including Prince George’s County, which launched a program to assist tenants whose employment income has been affected by COVID-19 with rent and utility payments.

Earlier this spring, Gov. Larry Hogan enacted an executive order to ban evictions and foreclosures until 90 days after the state of emergency is lifted, if tenants or residents can prove the pandemic put them out of work.

Statistics from the Maryland Department of Labor show that one in five Maryland workers have filed for unemployment since March.