Agenda Item 7B
June 20, 2017
Action
MEMORANDUM
June 16, 2017
TO:
FROM:
SUBJECT:
County Council
Josh Hamlin, Legislative Attome)J
Action:
Expedited Bill 17-17, Lan ord -Tenant Relations -Duties of Director -
Licensing of Rental Housing- Fees
Expedited Bill 17-17, Landlord - Tenant Relations - Licensing of Rental Housing - Fees -
Amount, sponsored by Lead Sponsors Council President Berliner and Councilmember Elrich, was
introduced on May 16, 2017. A public hearing was held on June 13.
On Monday, May 15, the Council considered whether to add two positions in the Office of
Consumer Protection (OCP) to provide tenant advocacy services, as proposed by Council President
Berliner, and Councilmembers Elrich and Rucker. Under the proposal, the positions would have
been funded by a $3 increase in the rental housing license fee for multi-family units (currently
$41), which would yield about $210,000. A memorandum from the proposers is at ©5-6. While
the Council ultimately decided not to add the proposed new OCP positions in the FYI 8 budget,
there was support for the proposition that additional tenant advocacy services should be provided.
Expedited Bill 17-17 would require the Director of the Department of Housing and Community
Affairs (DHCA) to "provide advocacy services and assistance to tenants in relation to their rights"
under Chapter 29, Landlord-Tenant Relations. Also, current law provides that rental housing
license fees are set by method (3) regulation. This Bill would set the amounts of the annual license
fees per dwelling unit for each class of rental housing in the County Code, and provide the fees
may be set at higher amounts by method (3) regulation. The fees will include the $3 increase that
was part of the proposal to provide tenant advocacy services through OCP.
Public Hearing
There was one speaker at the public hearing on the Bill held on June 13. Chris Perry
testified on behalf of the Montgomery County Renters Alliance, stating that the Renters Alliance
supports the creation of an Office of the Tenant Advocate as part of the Office of Consumer
Protection (see ©7-8).
 PDF to HTML - Convert PDF files to HTML files
Background
As mentioned above, this
Bill
had stems from discussions during the consideration of the
FYI 8 Operating Budget. A proposal from Council President Roger Berliner, Public Safety
Committee Chair Marc Eirich, and Councilmember Tom Hucker (described in the memorandum
at ©5-6) was discussed at the April 17 Public Safety Committee worksession.
1
This proposal arose
from the Council's consideration and enactment of Bill 19-15, Landlord - Tenant Relations
Licensing of Rental Housing - Landlord-Tenant Obligations. During consideration of that Bill,
Councilmembers heard concerns from tenants that the existing County Landlord-Tenant program,
including its dispute resolution function, is challenging to navigate for tenants lacking the financial
resources to hire legal counsel. As a result, some Councilmembers stated their interest in
improving tenant advocacy services for County residents.
The proposal included a recommendation that the Council add two new positions to OCP
to provide tenant advocacy services. The proposal provided that at least one of these positions
would be an attorney to provide both general consumer assistance and legal advice regarding
tenants' rights. Under the proposal, the individuals filling the positions would provide advice in
both individual and group settings, assist tenants in completing tenant petitions and drafting court
documents. Funding for the new positions would be obtained through a $3 increase in the rental
property license fee for multi-family units (currently $41), which would yield about $210,000. The
Committee recommended approval (3-0) of these new positions, which were placed on the
Reconciliation List.
At its May 15 worksession on OCP's FY18 budget, the full Council considered the
proposal and was advised by staff that Executive did not support the addition of these positions in
the Office of Consumer Protection, and that he would not propose a regulation increase the license
fee to fund these positions.
2
Council was thus advised that approval of the new positions would
require an expedited bill to increase the rental property license fee from· $41 to $44. While
Councilmembers generally expressed agreement on the desirability of improvements in tenant
advocacy services, there was debate about the appropriateness of OCP providing the services. At
the conclusion of the discussion, Council President Berliner proposed to introduce a bill to provide
for enhancements tenant advocacy and assistance provided by DHCA, and the positions were
removed from the Reconciliation List without objection.
This Bill was introduced on May 16. On May 25, the Council approved the FYI 8 Operating
Budget, with a provision that $210,000 of DHCA's appropriation "must only be spent on
enhancements to tenant advocacy and outreach that assists tenants in determining how to resolve
a complaint, including tenant rights in the mediation process, a hearing before the Commission on
Landlord-Tenant Affairs, and an appeal to the Court."
3
Staff Recommendation
Given that there appears to be near-consensus that tenants in the County would benefit
from the enhancement proposed by the Bill, and the fact that its enactment was generally
http:/'111ontgomencoun1vmd.granicu,.co1m Meta Vie\\er.php'
1
v½id ½ I 69&cl ip id= 13105&mtta id½ I J<-l751
2
hltp:/!inontgornencountvrnd.granicus.com
1
1\1cta Viewer.phJ1'.,'vie..'\. id l 69&c lip id
=
: I 3.,45&m.t:Ja½it! 138858
3
See paragraph 50 on page 15 of Resolution No. 18-823 at:
http: !www montgomervcountvrnd.½ov.COUNCI L'Resottrces Files res JO 171½0 I 705' 5 18-8' ½J2Lif
2
1
 PDF to HTML - Convert PDF files to HTML files
anticipated in the approved FYI 8 Operating Budget, Council staff recommends enactment of
Expedited Bill 17-17.
This packet contains:
Expedited Bill 17-1 7
Legislative Request Report
Councilmembers' memorandum
Renters Alliance testimony
F:\LA W\BILLS\1717 Landlord Tenant Relations-Duties Of Director\Action Memo.Docx
Circle#
1
4
5
7
3
 PDF to HTML - Convert PDF files to HTML files
Expedited Bill No.
~17~-~17~-----
Concerning: Landlord-Tenant Relations
- Duties of Director - Licensing of
Rental Housing - Fees
Revised:
05/15/2017
Draft No. _3_
Introduced:
May
16, 2017
Expires:
November
16, 2018
Enacted: - - - - - - - ' - - - - - -
Executive: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __
Effective: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __
Sunset Date: ----'-'-No=n-=e~------
Ch. _ _ , Laws of Mont. Co. _ _ __
COUNTY COUNCIL
FOR MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND
Lead Sponsors: Council President Berliner and Councilmember Elrich
AN EXPEDITED ACT
to:
(1)
require the Director of Housing and Community Affairs to provide certain advocacy
services and assistance to tenants;
(2) set the amount of the annual license fee per dwelling unit for each class of rental
housing; and
(3) generally amend the law related to landlord-tenant relations.
By amending
Montgomery County Code
Chapter 29, Landlord-Tenant Relations
Sections 29-6 and 29-20
Boldface
Underlining
[Single boldface brackets]
Double underlining
[[Double boldface brackets]]
* * *
Heading or de.fined term.
Added to existing law by original bill.
Deleted.from existing law by original bill.
Added by amendment.
Deleted.from existing law or the bill by amendment.
Existing law unaffected by bill.
The County Council for Montgomery County, Maryland approves the following Act:
 PDF to HTML - Convert PDF files to HTML files
EXPEDITED BILL
No. 17-17
1
2
Sec.
1.
Sections 29-6 and 29-20 are amended as follows:
29-6. Duties of Director.
In addition to any other power, duty, or responsibility assigned in this Chapter,
the Director has the following duties:
*
*
*
3
4
5
6
ill
The Director must provide advocacy services and assistance to tenants in
relation to their rights under this Chapter.
*
*
*
7
8
9
29-20. Fees.
[The County Executive must establish an annual license fee per dwelling unit
for each class of rental housing license by regulation under method (3) in an amount
sufficient to pay the costs of administering this Chapter.) The annual license fee per
dwelling unit is:
(a)
for
f!
Class
l
multi-family rental facility license:
( 1)
$44.00 per dwelling unit in an apartment complex or an accessory
apartment approved
QY
special exception; and
(2)
.{hl
1O
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
$59.00 per dwelling unit for all others;
for
f!
Class
2
single-family rental facility license, $101.00 per dwelling
unit·
=
20
21
{f)
for
f!
Class
l
accessory apartment license $101.00 per unit.
The Executive may establish
f!
higher annual fee by method
ill
regulation in an amount
sufficient to
rn
the costs of administering this Chapter,
22
23
24
Sec. 2. Expedited Effective Date.
The Council declares that this legislation is necessary for the immediate
protection of the public interest. This Act takes effect on July 1, 2017.
25
f:\law\bills\1717 landlord tenant relations-duties of director\bill
3.docx
 PDF to HTML - Convert PDF files to HTML files
EXPEDITED BILL
No. 17-17
26
Approved:
27
Roger Berliner, President, County Council
Date
28
Approved:
29
Isiah Leggett, County Executive
Date
30
This is a correct copy ofCouncil action.
31
Linda M. Lauer, Clerk of the Council
Date
f:llaw\bills\ 1717 landlord tenant relations-duties of director\bill
3.docx
 PDF to HTML - Convert PDF files to HTML files
LEGISLATIVE REQUEST REPORT
Expedited Bill 17-17
Landlord-Tenant Relations
-
Duties of Director
-
Licensing of Rental Housing- Fees
DESCRIPTION:
Require the Director of DHCA to provide certain advocacy services
and assistance to tenants; set the amounts of the annual license fees per
dwelling unit for each class of rental housing in the County Code; and
provide the fees may be set at higher amounts by method (3)
regulation.
Additional advocacy services and assistance to tenants is necessary.
Require, and fund, additional tenant advocacy services to be delivered
byDHCA.
Department of Housing and Community Affairs
To be requested.
To be requested.
To be requested.
NIA
PROBLEM:
GOALSAND
OBJECTIVES:
COORDINATION:
FISCAL IMPACT:
ECONOMIC
IMPACT:
EVALUATION:
EXPERIENCE
ELSEWHERE:
SOURCE OF
INFORMATION:
APPLICATION
WITHIN
MUNICIPALITIES:
PENALTIES:
Josh Hamlin, Legislative Attorney
To be researched.
NIA
F:ILA WIBILLS\1717 Landlord Tenant Relations-Duties OfDirector\LRR.Docx
®
 PDF to HTML - Convert PDF files to HTML files
MONTGOMERY COUNlY COUNCIL
ROCKVILLE,
MARYLAND
.
.
ROGER BERLINER
COUNCIL PRESIDENT
DISTRICT 1
CHAIRMAN
TRANSPORTATION, INFRASTRUCTURE
ENERGY
&
ENVIRONMENT COMM!TTEE
MEMORANDUM
April 13,2017
TO:
FROM:
Council Colleagues
Roger Berliner, Council President
Marc
Elrich, Chair, Public Safety Committee
Tom Hucker, Councilmember
Tenant Advocate Services in the Office of Consumer Protection
SUBJECT:
Last
November, the Council took significant steps
to
improve conditions for tenants through the .
enactment of Bill 19-15,
Landlord-Tenant Relations
-
Licensing ofRental Housing- Landlord Tenant
Obligations.
The enhancements to the requirements for inspections and the increased resources to the
Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) should keep poor maintenance and repairs from
languishing and the requirement for a lease summary should help improve tenants' understanding of their
rights and responsibilities.
During the Council worksession on Bill 19-1 S, we stated our interest
in
providing tenant advocacy
services for our residents. While DHCA administers the Landlord-Tenant
program
and the Commis~ion
on Landlord-Tenant Affairs
with
a goal of evenly addressing the concerns of landlords and tenants, we
believe that some tenants view
the
Landlord-Tenant
program as
too closely
tied
to
landlords and do not
come
forward
with questions or seeking the advice they need, particularly when trying to decide whether
to
file a formal complaint.
We are recommending that the Council
add
two new positions
to
the Office ofConsumer
Protection (OCP) to provide tenant advocacy services. We are recommending one of these positions be
an attorney so that tenants can obtain both general consumer assistance and legal advice regarding
tenants'. rights under Montgomery County law. The District of Columbia has a robust Office of the
Tenant Advocate
that
"advises tenants on resolving disputes with landlords, identifies legal issues and the
rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, and provides legal and technical assistance for further
action such as filing tenant petitions." Their attorneys may represent clients in
certain
cases but also refer
clients to pro bono legal services. They provide advice
in
both
individual and group settings. They assist
tenants in completing petitions and drafting court documents.
STai.A
B. WERNER
OFl'lcE
BUII.OtNG •
100
MARYlANo
AVENUE, 6
111
Ft.o0R, ROClMllf,
MARYi.ANO
20850
210-m-7828
OR
210-m-7900, TTY 240-m-7914, FAX 240-m-79e9
WWW.MOHTGOMERYCOUNiYMO,oo.t
®
 PDF to HTML - Convert PDF files to HTML files
ln
2010, the Tenants Worlc Group recommended
that
the County "provide leadership
in
fanning a
Tenant Advocacy structure funded by the landlord-tenant fee." While the Work Group recommended an
independent office, we are recommending that these positions work within the Office of Consumer
Protection.
We
do
not view this recommendation as inconsistent with the responsibilities DHCA
has
under
Chapter 29 of the County Code, but rather as a complement to them. DHCA remains responsible for
handling and resolving complaints. Tenant outreach, education, and tenant association organizing will
continue
to
be
perfonned by non-profit partners. OCP exists to advocate for our residents. For example,
OCP today provides patient advocacy services for the EMS Insurance Reimbursement
Program.
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services does an excellent job of administering the billing
program, yet it is important for residents to know that they have a resource independent from MCFRS
to
address questions, concerns, and billing complaints. We ex.pect the tenant advocates within OCP will
work with DHCA
to
resolve complaints and problems and more tenants
will
access services because they
may speak
with
advocates that have independence and a focus on tenants.
We are recommending a $3 increase to the Landlord-Tenant license fee for multi-family units
(currently $41 ),-which will yield about $210,000 for this initiative.
The Public Safety Committee will discuss this proposal during
its
worlcsession on the Office of
Consumer Affairs operating budget on Monday, April
J
'F'.
(l)
 PDF to HTML - Convert PDF files to HTML files
MONTGOMERY COUNTY
RENTERS AlUANCE, INC.
'Buif
o(,n,
CotW11.uni-ty
•••
Testimony
Chris Perry
Vice-Chair, Board of Directors
Montgomery County Renters Alliance, Inc.
June 13, 2017
info@RentersAlliance.org
Good afternoon, Council Members.
First, we would like to thank Council President Berliner and Council Members Marc Elrich,
Sydney Katz and Tom Rucker for their initial support for this proposal to create an Office of the
Tenant Advocate.
Over the past seven years, the Renters Alliance has worked with scores of renters whose pursuit
of their rights could have been a shorter journey, was instead long and sometimes emotionally
and economically harrowing because they lacked the legal "muscle" on their side.
In many cases pursued through the Office of Landlord and Tenant Affairs, tenants sit alone on
one side of the table, while landlords weight the table with staff and lawyers who prosecute their
client's case with expert vigor, while tenants, unskilled in the law and unaware of their rights and
the procedures to protect them, are forced to reduce or relinquish their rights or forced out of
their homes.
Advocacy, tenant organizing and education remain critical needs in the renter community. And
despite the success of our work at the Renters Alliance, it is woefully underfunded and
understaffed in comparison to the need for such work by more than 36% of the County who
living in rental housing. But even fully supported, our work is simply not enough and not always
what is singularly required. Professional legal advice is sometimes critical to the swift and just
resolution of a tenant/landlord dispute. And we have seen many such examples:
In
one case, we assisted a senior citizen being threatened with eviction because she sought to
petition the landlord to lower rent increase--which were hovering at 10% annually-to within
the County's voluntary rent increase guidelines. She was then told that her lease was now in
1
 PDF to HTML - Convert PDF files to HTML files
jeopardy and the her renewal-her 35
th
annual renewal-would be rescinded. The Renters
Alliance advocated for her well being, navigated the dispute resolution process, but the attorney
we eventually arranged zeroed in the law: the signed renewal 1) could not be rescinded and 2) a
case for retaliation would be won with damages. Her lease was immediately renewed.
In another case of unjust threat of eviction, a tenant pursuing her rights to proper maintenance,
was told in response by the landlord that her lease would not be renewed. The Renters Alliance,
again, advocated for the renter, counseled her fear and navigated the county's complaint process
terrain, but the lawyer we obtained, zeroed in on the contract: notification of nonrenewal could
not be made without certified notice at least 60 days in advance. The case was dropped and she
received her renewal.
In another case where a landlord refused to return a security deposit to a family in desperate need
of the funds, a well-crafted demand letter outlining the case and the risk of treble damages by an
attorney prompted an immediate cutting of a check.
Time and again, tenants, most of whom lack the kind of funds necessary to engage a lawyer to
protect their homes or pursue common rights, suffer the loss of required services, poor
maintenance-and sometimes the loss of their homes, because they lack a legal advocate who
can help balance the terms of engagement in a dispute.
When Council President Berliner and Council Member Eirich first agreed to pursue the
establishment of an Office of the Tenant Advocate, we hoped that the office would be created
with the heft the goals of the office deserve. We submitted our proposal for consideration which
includes an initial projection for staff requirements as well as positioning and function.
We are concerned that this proposal lacks what we view as sufficient staffing to address a
growing county-wide challenge. We have been told that in time, as the needs of an OTA become
clearer, additional staffing can be addressed. But our greatest concern centers on the ability of an
OTA to act independently without fear of organizational retaliation, neglect or even sabotage.
It has long been understood by renters that because of its mission and culture, the Department of
Housing and Community Affairs is possessed of an inherent bias in support of landlord concerns
and against tenants rights. DHCA is responsible for encouraging the investment in and
development of rental housing, while at the same time is charged with enforcing laws against the
same industry. This has led to DHCA's initial resistance to the formation of the Tenants Work
Group, support for the Renters Alliance and opposition to many elements of the recently passed
renter protection bill.
While we are pleased to have developed a working relationship with DHCA to pursue a modest
measure of tenant organizing and education, it is our belief that an OTA, as a legal advocate for
renters, should be independent from DHCA in order act freely, passionately and without
reservation on behalf of tenant interests. We ask the Council to take this concern into serious
consideration and position the OTA in the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Thank you.
2