Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (Courtesy Photo/msa.maryland.gov/)

Annapolis, MD – Today, Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and House leadership announced a legislative package designed to address critical housing issues facing Maryland communities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an incredible amount of strain on families across the state,” said Speaker Jones. “This legislation addresses issues raised by the pandemic and strengthens the landlord tenant process in the future. We are confident that this package will help more people stay in their homes, pay their rent, and preserve affordable housing options for families.”

The housing package is designed to create long-term funding of rental and legal assistance, solidify tenant protections during this emergency health order and beyond while creating clarity and transparency for both tenants and landlords.

The legislative package will also include bills to:

  • Increase fees for landlords to file for evictions
  • Create a special fund to for rental assistance and legal aid programs
  • Create a means-tested right to counsel in specific landlord-tenant cases
  • Require landlords to notify tenants before they file for an eviction
  • Allow judges discretion to stay an eviction in specific emergency situations
  • Requiring landlord verification of lead certification and local licensure when filing for eviction
  • Extend the notice period to tenants for non-renewal of residential leases
  • Improve transparency in utility costs when they are passed on to tenants
  • Protect victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking in lease terminations
  • Require statewide data collection and reporting on the eviction process

“Maryland has some of the lowest eviction filing fees in the nation,” said Chairman Luke Clippinger. “Increasing the filing fee will bring parity among neighboring states and help alleviate pressure on the courts by decreasing the number of frivolous claims. By redirecting collected fees to legal aid and rental assistance programs, we can ensure these funds are reinvested into improving the system as a whole.”

“It is our goal to ensure this process is fair and transparent to all parties involved.” said Chairman Kumar Barve. “We recognize that the pandemic has taken an unprecedented toll on Maryland tenants and landlords and we want to do our part to get people back on their feet. As we move forward, the ability to make data driven decisions is absolutely necessary.”

“The House is working to strengthen protections for Marylanders as we continue through this pandemic,” said Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins. “By extending and codifying the affirmative defense for failure to pay rent during a catastrophic health emergency, we are going to help more families keep a roof over their heads.”

“I’m excited to see so many important bills addressing housing this session,” said Delegate Vaughn Stewart. “This legislative package works to empower renters in bold new ways and to ensure individuals and families can feel secure in their homes – especially if they have lived in the same place for years.”

“No one should lose their home because they can’t afford a lawyer,” said Delegate Wanika Fisher. “Marylanders who struggle to make ends meet deserve representation in some of these landlord-tenant cases. This is about providing equity to tenants when bad landlords aren’t fulfilling their obligations.”

“Landlords and Tenants deserve a process that is fair to each other,” said Delegate Melissa Wells. “The current process leans in favor of landlords because there are absolutely no upfront steps, including even simple notice requirements. This is a process we can fix and this is a process that deserves a fair standard of practice.”

“Proper licensing and up-to-date inspections should be necessary to begin any eviction action,” said Delegate Dalya Attar. “The policy should be trust but verify. Families should not be forced out of a home in which the owner may be ignoring substandard living conditions.”

“I’m proud to support this robust effort to strengthen the landlord-tenant relationship,” said Delegate Jen Terrasa. “When we look at the number of evictions filed in Maryland versus the number executed, there is clearly room to improve the process in the earlier stages.”

The legislation is contained in multiple bills in the House Judiciary and Environment and Transportation Committees.