The General Assembly considered, but did not pass, legislation to codify Maryland’s current policy staving off evictions of lease-holding tenants – advocates worry that may open the door to widespread “failure to pay” evictions.
Among the subjects of extensive government assistance has been renter relief – seeking to avoid massive tenant evictions while many Americans have lost their regular incomes due to economic disruptions of the pandemic. The rights of tenants “holding over” after the expiration of a lease are fewer than those holding a lease, and advocates argue they may be especially vulnerable to eviction, even during the ongoing pandemic, and even while federal and state laws tout a “moratorium” on eviction proceedings.
A bill before the General Assembly this session was a focus of this policy debate, but its final version did not clear the entire process in the waning hours of the session, and was defeated. Advocates had hoped that HB 1312 would pass in a form designed to protect tenants holding over from eviction when a property owner receives governmental assistance.
MACo and county housing and social service leaders had joined along with a coalition advocating for amendments to the bill.
Several tenant relief efforts failed in the last hours of the 2021 legislative session Monday, drawing condemnation from fair housing advocates who say the state isn’t doing enough to stop evictions — particularly during the pandemic.
And although the American Rescue Plan earmarked millions for rent relief in Maryland, Matthew Losak, executive director of the Montgomery County Renters Alliance, told Maryland Matters that money alone won’t stop a “gathering storm” of evictions.
“It was a huge omission by the legislature to ignore the eviction crisis,” Losak said.
Fair housing advocates have warned throughout the pandemic that, despite state and federal stays on evictions, tenants are still losing their homes. Those orders give tenants an affirmative case in failure to pay rent cases, but landlords can refuse to renew a lease and then file what’s called a “tenant holding over” action if the tenant stays on the property after their lease ends.