Eviction Bill Could Further Burden Sheriffs

MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson today testified before the House Judiciary Committee to support HB 1312 COVID-19  Eviction and Housing Relief Act of 2021 with amendments. This bill’s goal is to prevent large groups of tenants from being evicted during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

From the MACo Testimony:

MACo’s position on this bill is in two parts – recognizing its far reach. Components of the bill supporting local efforts to stem the effects of eviction moratorium may prove to be a productive
framework for the use of appropriate federal or state funds, but some implementation responsibilities
upon Sheriffs are likely misplaced or unwise.

The Rent Relief Fund envisioned by the bill’s new Subtitle 8 is formed to help support local efforts to stem evictions and support rental property owners. Such efforts advance a reasonable policy goal of suspending major economic shocks during an unusually distorted economy, brought about by the health pandemic. Multiple Maryland jurisdictions have launched various programs toward this end, and the bill creates a framework to supplement, and encourage, those local efforts. This general direction is a promising potential use for either state funds, or future federal support to the State of Maryland.

Other implementing components of HB 1312 raise administration and safety concerns, and should be reevaluated.

The bill’s broad data collection requirements are placed onto the Sheriff and constables (who carry out evictions) and may oblige a meaningful increase in staff time committed to these ancillary functions. Further, specific parts of the notice provisions may have multiple undesired effects – costly and staff intensive in their requirements, and potentially creating a more dangerous environment at the scheduled time of eviction for tenants who feel unjustly targeted.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2021 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.