A Maryland committee released a report Monday with 12 housing recommendations to help tenants and landlords with legal services and counseling and for judiciary staff trained in housing law to address an expected influx of eviction-related court cases next month.
One of the main recommendations by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee work group calls for Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order prohibiting mortgage- and rental-based evictions to remain in effect “for the duration of Maryland’s state of emergency and catastrophic health emergency.”
Another proposal urges the governor to not allow landlords to implement late fees or penalties against tenants unable to pay due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The work group recognizes and appreciates that certain landlord advocacy groups have encouraged their members not to impose certain late fees and/or penalties,” according to the 24-page report. “However, the work group recommends that this policy be issued by an executive order to ensure equal protection for all Marylanders.”
The work group — created in May by Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery County), who chairs the judicial proceedings committee — held six meetings to address how the pandemic has created a housing crisis.
Sen. Shelly Hettleman (D-Baltimore County) chairs the five-member group that received input from various court and state agency officials, housing advocates and residents.
Maryland courts have started to reopen this month and renters now face possible eviction notices being mailed to their residences because the rent moratorium ended Saturday, five days after district courts were allowed to start the process of rent escrow actions against tenants.
By law, court actions can take place within 60 days of a warrant being served.
Hettleman said those specific cases are from filings made in court before the coronavirus state of emergency went into effect in March.
Court hearings on failure to pay rent case are slated to begin Aug. 31.
An analysis by The Aspen Institute projects nearly 330,000 Marylanders could face eviction by the end of the year.
“We just think it shouldn’t get to that point,” Hettleman said in an interview. “If you don’t have a home in which to stay, you are inadvertently putting yourself and the public at risk. We want people to stay at home and just go out for essential things.”
Hogan issued an executive order on March 16 to temporarily prohibit evictions of renters during the state of emergency amid coronavirus pandemic.
However, tenants must prove in court that they have “suffered a substantial loss of income” resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, Hogan announced renters can apply for vouchers through the state Department of Housing and Community Development’s housing relief program for a four-month voucher rebate.