Landlord issues related to COVID-19 crisis
 

For Questions - Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs : call 311 (240-777-0311); olta.intake@montgomerycountymd.gov // online request

Information on landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities addressed in the County’s Landlord-Tenant Handbook.

Under the COVID-19 Renter Relief Act, how much can landlords increase existing rent. For example, how does it affect May 1 rents?

  • The COVID-19 Renter Relief Act (the Act), effective April 24, 2020, prohibits landlords from increasing existing tenants’ rent by more than 2.6% after April 24 and during the COVID-19 catastrophic health emergency signed by the Governor of Maryland on March 5, 2020.
  • For example, any rent increases scheduled for May 1, 2020 may not represent an increase of more than 2.6%. 
  • To see examples, visit: Explanatory scenarios regarding the Act

If a landlord has rent increases already scheduled for May 1, how does the COVID-19 Renter Relief Act affect that?

Landlords who previously notified tenants of a rent increase in excess of 2.6% that would come into effect after April 24 and during the catastrophic health emergency or, who gave tenants notice of a rent increase of more than 2.6% since the start of the March 5 emergency, must either notify them to disregard that notice or notify them that the rent amount under the notice will be an amount representing an increase of no greater than 2.6%.

What effect does COVID-19 Renter Relief Act have on notices of rent increases?

The Act prohibits landlords from notifying tenants of a rent increase of more than 2.6% during the COVID-19 emergency (which began March 5) and for 90 days after the emergency ends.

How was 2.6% identified as the limit on rent increases?

  • The COVID-19 Renter Relief Act limits rent increases during and after the emergency to the percentage increase of the County’s 2020 Voluntary Rent Guideline (VRG) of 2.6%.
  • That number was established by the County Executive on February 3, 2020. Under requirements of the County law it represents the rental component of the Consumer Price Index for the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area and it is updated each year.  The VRG cannot be changed until 2021. 
  • The VRG provides reference information for landlords and tenants to understand average rent increases from the prior year and before the COVID-19 Renter Relief Act had no impact on rent levels allowed in the County.

Does the limit on rent increases apply to all landlords in Montgomery County?

The 2.6% limit on rent increases and notices applies to all licensed residential rentals in Montgomery County, including rental units in multifamily buildings, houses, townhouses, individual condominium units, and accessory dwelling units. 

If I have questions about this new measure, who can I call?

Tenants or landlords who have questions or want help can reach Montgomery County DHCA Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs by calling 311 (240-777-0311).

Does the County have any requirements related to maintenance or property management for the COVID-19 emergency?

  • Yes. The County clarified requirements for multifamily properties to follow the CDC guidelines, Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility.
  • DHCA communicated this requirement in an email to all licensed landlords on April 10, 2020.
  • All multifamily properties must clean high touch surfaces in common areas at least once a day following the CDC guidelines, with recommendation for more frequent cleaning in high traffic areas.
  • All multifamily properties must post the CDC Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility three page guideline in a common area.
  • More information about multifamily property guidelines is available at the DHCA webpage of information for landlords.

What documents does Montgomery County require landlords to post during the emergency?

DHCA issued a directive to landlords on April 10, 2020 in an email to the email addresses for all licensed rental properties to require three specific documents, available from the DHCA website:

Does the County have information in multiple languages to help residents maintain safety?

Yes. The County has printable flyers in multiple languages available at its DHCA webpage of information for landlords to print and post in common areas, addressing social distancing and safe practices in the home and in common areas.

Does the County require landlords to tell tenants about the statewide eviction moratorium?

  • Yes. The County issued a requirement for landlords to post a Tenant’s Rights Evictions Suspended notice alongside the previously required Tenants’ Rights poster which informs tenants of rights to report concerns to DHCA.
  • The Tenants’ Rights notice includes information that rents remain due during the emergency; that while the Maryland Courts have suspended eviction actions no tenant can be removed for any reason; and, that the eviction moratorium is only temporary.

What guidance does DHCA have for landlords in working with tenants who have identified themselves as testing COVID-19 Positive?

  • Landlords/Property Managers should not report to the Department of Health and Human Services information about residents and staff which may fall under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Maryland confidentiality laws. This includes patient health information related to COVID-19 test results, isolation, monitoring or quarantine status.
  • Landlords/Property Managers are requested not to share with other residents any health-related information about individual tenants, whether the information identifies the tenant or not. Landlords/Property Managers should not share information about residents and staff which may fall under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Maryland confidentiality laws. This includes patient health information related to COVID-19 test results, isolation, monitoring or quarantine status. 
  • Residents are free to contact the Department of Health Services or to contact their landlord/property manager to ask for any assistance. Residents may contact the Montgomery County Disease Control Call Center if they have COVID-19 health and testing related concerns and questions. The Call Center is open Monday – Sunday, 8 AM – 8 PM, at (240) 777-1755.
  • Residents may contact the Montgomery County Disease Control Call Center if they have COVID-19 health and testing related concerns and questions. The Call Center is open Monday – Sunday, 8 AM – 8 PM, at (240) 777-1755.
  • Residents are not obligated to inform their landlord or other residents. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Maryland confidentiality laws, residents are not obligated to disclose protected health information related to COVID-19 to their landlord nor other residents. This includes patient health information related to COVID-19 test results, isolation, monitoring or quarantine status.

What guidance is available to landlords working with tenants who will not be able to pay rent?

The County is encouraging any tenant who expects to not make a rent payment to contact their landlord to alert them and, for landlords to work with them on options, such as partial payments or an agreement for future payments.

How long will the eviction moratorium last?

The moratorium is temporary, but no time period is set. The governor's temporary hold on evictions states that the moratorium on evictions of renters with income loss due to the emergency will remain in place ‘Until the state of emergency is terminated and the catastrophic health emergency is rescinded,…’

Can a landlord evict any tenant, including room renters, during the Maryland eviction moratorium?

  • No one can be forced to leave their rental home without giving proper written notice and obtaining a court order, and the courts currently have suspended all orders. 
  • The governor’s eviction moratorium applies only to documented income loss or health impacts from the emergency, and if the courts lift the suspension before the moratorium ends, tenants not covered by the moratorium may face eviction. 
  • Tenants who feel they are being unlawfully evicted are encouraged by the County to call the police non-emergency number (301-279-8000).

Can landlords send collection letters and begin eviction proceedings while the eviction moratorium delays actions?

  • Yes, landlords can continue to charge late fees and pursue collection activity including issuing paper and electronic notices as allowed under the leases with tenants.
  • The County encourages landlords to modify collection practices to adjust to the crisis and work with tenants on payment options and support for maintaining occupancy that benefits the landlord and tenant over the longer term.

At what point can a renter pay past due rent to avoid eviction after the moratorium ends?

Renters have the right to pay all owed rent at any time, and the landlord must accept it and cancel the eviction process if rent is brought current.

How long can tenants go without paying my rent and not be evicted? 

  • A landlord can sue for possession of the property for failure to pay rent when the courts lift the suspension, if the tenant is not eligible under the moratorium. 
  • The uncertainty of timing for ending the moratorium and suspension provides incentives for all parties to negotiate agreements for payment plans and payment tracking.

Significant numbers of eviction requests will be backed up when the moratorium comes off, how will that process be controlled?

The Court system will manage the scheduling of cases, and the DHCA Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs will work with tenants on questions, efforts to mediate and connecting tenants to available resources.

Can tenants be removed if they have stopped paying rent and have reported tested positive for COVID-19? 

  • No. No one can be forced to leave their rental home without giving proper written notice and obtaining a court order.
  • The County guidance is that if a tenant believes they are illegally asked to leave during this moratorium, the tenant should call the police non-emergency number (301-279-8000).