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Montgomery County Council Approves Temporary Residential Rent Control

by Nena Perry-Brown

On Thursday afternoon, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed a rent relief bill that looks much different than it did when introduced last week.

The COVID-19 Renter Relief Act limits any rent increases on residential tenants during, or within the 90 days following, the current statewide public health emergency. Rather than the initially proposed rent freeze, the bill was amended during the voting session to allow landlords to increase rent by up to 2.6% upon renewal during the state of emergency. 

The 2.6% ceiling, from the county's Voluntary Rent Guidelines (VRG), would remain in place for 180 days after the emergency is lifted, enabling landlords to give 90-day notice of a rent increase after 90 days. The amendment passed 6-3 after vigorous debate, with Councilmembers Will Jawando, Nancy Navarro, and Craig Rice voting against.

Accordingly, the bill was also amended to permit previously-notified rent increases under VRG to take effect as scheduled, and require landlords to either revise rent increases to adhere to VRG or rescind the increase entirely.

Several other amendments were introduced during the voting session that sparked debate.

Councilmember Andrew Friedson proposed an amendment permitting landlords that demonstrate financial hardship and/or increased operational costs to apply for permission to increase rent by 5% during the emergency if approved by the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA). DHCA opposed the amendment due to the lack of guidance on criteria for hardship and the need for renters to have the security of knowing their rent will not increase during the emergency. The amendment failed on a 2-7 vote.

An amendment introduced by Councilmember Jawando to ban late fees during or within the 30 days following the emergency also failed on a 3-6 vote.

A $2 million rental assistance appropriation was also introduced in the Council earlier this week.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/montgomery-county-council-approves-temporary-residential-rent-control/16746

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