Back in May, the Baltimore City Council passed a new law forbidding landlords from increasing the rent on their properties for the duration of the declared state of emergency caused by the pandemic and for three months after it was lifted. Two surrounding counties quickly passed almost identical laws. While there was some grumbling about it at the time, that was when we were still being told that the worst of the plague might be gone by the summer and things could be returning to normal. Well, that didn’t happen, obviously. The state of emergency in Maryland has been extended six times by the Governor and it’s not expected to end until next year at the rate things are going.
This has left Baltimore’s landlords in an untenable position. Too many tenants aren’t paying rent at all, and those who are can’t have their rent increased as had been previously anticipated and planned for by the landlords. But the bills still keep coming due, maintenance has to be done and taxes must be paid. A group of landlords owning a total of thousands of rental units in the city and surrounding counties have gone to court, suing for the right to raise the rent as previously scheduled. (Baltimore Sun)
The companies — which together own more than 2,000 residential rental units in Baltimore City, Howard County and Salisbury — are suing their local governments over three similar, recently enacted laws that bar landlords from raising rent or charging late fees during the state of emergency.
At the same time, housing advocates have been sounding the alarm about a looming eviction crisis as hundreds of thousands of people in Maryland grapple with unemployment and financial insecurity. Families fear they may lose their homes if they are unable to pay rent while weathering the economic turmoil spurred by the pandemic.
This lawsuit is focused on the landlords’ ability to institute rent increases, rather than challenging any of the state’s orders regulating eviction. The plaintiffs are seeking to have the laws overturned, as well as an unspecified payment from the municipalities to make up for rent increases the landlords weren’t able to put in place.