Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks during a March 23 press briefing in Annapolis to give an update on the state response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy of the governor's office)
**FILE** Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks during a March 23 press briefing in Annapolis to give an update on the state response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy of the governor's office)

Although the coronavirus pandemic rages on, some laws in Maryland remain unclear or residents don’t know what services they are eligible to receive.

In terms of housing, the federal eviction moratorium remains in effect until March 31.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan approved orders protecting tenants affected by COVID-19 from evictions that include both residential and commercial properties.

According to Maryland District Court, which oversees and hears housing cases, “tenants can raise this as a defense in both failure-to-pay rent and breach of leases cases.”

But housing advocates have said landlords are using tenant holding over cases as a legal loophole to evict tenants.

A tenant holding over case allows a landlord to file paperwork in court when a tenant’s lease has expired. In addition, a landlord isn’t required to provide an explanation as long as the tenant receives a notice first.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers in the House of Delegates approved legislation last week that would eliminate tenant holding over cases until April 30, 2022. The bill is now over in the Senate for review by the Judicial Proceedings Committee.

For residents in need of assistance, the following information may be of benefit.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – 1-855-411-2372
Maryland Courts; court help center at 410-260-1392 from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday

For utility assistance, residents can apply for funds toward heat and other utilities can go through the state Department of Human Services.

The state Office of Energy Programs allow residents to apply based on income. For instance, the maximum gross monthly income cannot exceed $1,861 and remain in effect through June 30.

The information needed includes photo ID; proof of residency; copies of social security cards for adults and children; household gross income for the last 30-day period; a recent utility bill or termination notice; and the most recent heating bill or receipt.

To apply for an application online, go to http://mydhrbenefits.dhr.state.md.us, or https://bit.ly/395jOfS. Residents can also call 1-800-332-6347.

Locally, Prince George’s County opened an emergency assistance program March 4 based on its third round of “Emergency Rental Assistance Program” for residents affected by COVID-19.

On behalf of tenants, landlords may apply for funding for each tenant’s delinquent payments starting April 1. The county’s Department of Housing and Community Development would provide funding for rent up to 12 months.

If a landlord doesn’t apply for a tenant, then eligible tenants can receive up to six months of rental assistant and/or utility payments.

Residents may contact the following organizations to schedule an appointment:

Casa de Maryland in Langley Park – 240-491-5763
Housing Initiative Partnership Inc. in Hyattsville – 667-260-7728
Centro De Apoyo Familiar in Riverdale – 301-328-3292
Sowing Empowerment & Economic Development Inc. (SEED) of Riverdale – 301-458-9808
Mission of Love in Capitol Heights – 301-333-4440
Housing Options & Planning Enterprises Inc. in Oxon Hill – 301-567-3330
United Communities Against Poverty Inc. in Capitol Heights – 301-322-5700 (call to drop off application package)

For more information on the county’s housing and utility assistance program, go to https://bit.ly/39naS5N.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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