Rent Court was originally set up to protect tenants by enforcing health and sanitation standards in housing and assist landlords in collecting unpaid rent. But the reality is that a handful of overworked, overwhelmed judges work swiftly to move cases (as many as 1,000 per day) along, rather than hear the tenants’ concerns.
Many low-income renters cannot access a lawyer, and so most cases are heard in their landlord’s favor. This leads to nearly 7,000 evictions a year, most of them preventable, and makes it easy for landlords to avoid adhering to housing standards. Black women are overwhelmingly impacted by this broken system.
Jews United for Justice is part of two renters’ rights coalitions. For more information about our work with these coalitions, contact Rianna.
Baltimore Renters United
Baltimore Renters United (BRU) is a coalition of advocacy and membership groups fighting for the rights of renters in Baltimore City. BRU members include JUFJ, The Public Justice Center, Communities United, Right To Housing Alliance, Baltimore DSA, and the Homeless Persons Representation Project.
BRU has launched a Right to Counsel campaign, which will guarantee tenants in Baltimore City who are facing eviction the right to have a lawyer represent them in rent court. Currently, rent court is heavily skewed in favor of landlords: about 96% of landlords are represented, while only 1% of tenants have lawyers. Right to Counsel will shift the balance, to help seek justice for tenants.
BRU also hosts the Baltimore City Housing Court Watch blog, bmorerentersunited.org, which shines a light on the conditions and challenges renters face in Baltimore City’s Circuit Court. We train members to observe and write about housing court for the blog, and have been active in legislative efforts to have all rental units inspected and licensed.
Renters United Maryland
Renters United Maryland (RUM) is a coalition of renters’ rights groups working primarily at the state level. Members include JUFJ, The Public Justice Center, Homeless Persons Representation Project, Montgomery County Renters Alliance, Maryland Legal Aid, Public Policy Partners, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Maryland Chapter of the NAACP.
RUM has been working on statewide legislation to ensure safe housing and support renters rights.
There are no upcoming events at this time.