On Friday, May 27th, Governor Larry Hogan vetoed two housing-related bills, one concerning eviction proceedings and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), and another impacting county licensing schemes for rental housing.
On the final scheduled day of post-session decisions, the governor vetoed 18 bills and allowed 294 others to take effect without his signature. Because the 2022 election will install a new General Assembly for 2023, the votes may not be overridden in the next session – the veto will defeat the bills, unless a special legislative session is called.
The two housing bills among the vetoes, Senate Bill 384 and Senate Bill 563, would have assisted counties in dispensing rental aid to tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensured landlords abide by local housing regulations before pursuing evictions, respectively. Governor Hogan explained his vetoes in a formal veto letter to Senate President Bill Ferguson:
“Maryland already has some of the strongest tenant protection laws in the nation and these bills impose additional burdens on small property owners who are already struggling to stay in business. We will continue to work at the state and local levels to help tenants and landlords ensure that rent payments and rental licenses are current and in good standing. However, SB 384 and SB 563 will do little to help tenants and will make it harder for small and family-owned property owners to stay in business.”
Senate Bill 384 – Landlord and Tenant – Stay of Eviction Proceeding for Rental Assistance Determination
MACo supported SB 384 with both oral and written testimony. The bill, sponsored by Senator Shelly Hettleman, would have allowed a tenant to pause or “stay” eviction proceedings in court while awaiting an ERAP (rental assistance) determination. Landlords, tenants, and legislators from both sides of the aisle negotiated the terms of SB 384, resulting in a bill with broad support, clearing the Maryland Senate unanimously (47-0).
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, counties have been the primary administrators of ERAP, a federal program established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. With Maryland’s program falling on counties, each jurisdiction became responsible for building out operations concerning application processing, payment distribution, and marketing. SB 384 presented an opportunity to reach renters at an especially vulnerable time- eviction proceedings. MACo outlined how the bill might assist county ERAP operations in its written testimony:
County officials share the concern that many eligible tenants are not aware of, or are having difficulty applying for, emergency rental assistance. Moreover, as the pandemic subsides, recent data from district courts across the state show that evictions proceedings are beginning to be heard at near pre-pandemic rates. SB 384 is needed to ensure housing stability for vulnerable tenants. Upon eviction, these former tenants are faced with cascading negative health and economic issues including homelessness, food insecurity, and job lossplacing a substantial burden on state and county resources.
In its final form, SB 384 would have limited stays for up to 35 days and required renters to apply for rental assistance within 30 days of an eviction filing. The bill also included a sunset occurring on September 30, 2025. The limited scope of SB 384 was tailored to the needs of counties as they continue to distribute federal aid to Marylanders negatively impacted by the pandemic.
Senate Bill 563 – Real Property – Actions to Repossess – Judgment for Tenants and Proof of Rental Licensure
As with SB 384, MACo strongly supported SB 563 with oral and written testimony. The bill, also sponsored by Senator Hettleman, required a landlord to submit proof of licensure in compliance with local rental licensing requirements before pursuing an eviction in court. Like SB 384, SB 563 was subject to negotiations and similarly received a unanimous vote in the Maryland Senate (47-0).
MACo explained the bill’s necessity in its written testimony:
Licensing schemes for rental properties are a means for governments to ensure proper code and zoning compliance for the welfare of their communities, as well as maintain a proper record of housing needs within their jurisdiction. Allowing a complaint for repossession of a property to proceed without compliance with these licensing schemes completely undermines their validity. It would permit landlords to continue the illegal operation of residential rental properties by retaining the necessary tools of eviction and continued collection of rent by threat of eviction.
The final form of SB 563 included a provision allowing landlords to pursue eviction actions should a tenant be the cause for a licensure’s rejection or revocation.