When strangers reside with you in your land, you shall not wrong them. The sojourners who reside with you shall be to you as your citizens; you shall love them as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
— Leviticus 19:33-34
Every person, regardless of race or income, should have a safe and stable home. But some greedy landlords think that their own profit is more important than safety and stability for Black and brown renters, and they let the buildings they own fall into disrepair, or throw whole families out on the street to try to squeeze more money out of the next renters.
Ancient Jewish texts are full of laws about keeping homes safe for the people who live in them. The prophet Micah understood that housing is more than a roof over one’s head and that to deny a person safe housing is not only robbing them in the present but also robbing their family for generations to come.
JUFJ and our partners in Renters United Maryland have been supporting renters across the state in fighting back against unfair laws, evictions, and unsafe conditions. Together, we’ve won things like emergency rental assistance, lawyers for renters facing eviction, licensing requirements, and many other programs that keep families in their homes. This year, we can keep building a Maryland where everyone has a safe place to live.
- Senate Judicial Proceedings (JPR), Chair: Will Smith (Montgomery County)
- House Environment and Transportation (E&T), Chair: Marc Korman (Montgomery County)
2023 Legislative Details:
Just Cause Eviction (2023 bill numbers: HB684/SB504)
- Nobody should lose their home because of the whims of their landlord.
- Landlords often retaliate against tenants who organize for their rights, demand that repairs be made, or complain about violations of laws about safe housing conditions. Sometimes this retaliation takes the form of refusing to renew their leases.
- “Just cause” laws protect tenants from this kind of retaliation, and from being evicted for no reason at all. These laws promote housing stability for tenants and neighborhoods.
- This bill would allow counties to adopt “just cause” laws that meet local needs.
- Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins is the long-time sponsor of this bill.
As we build on our organizing and advocacy from the past few years, JUFJ prioritizes deepening relationships with existing partners and coalitions and honoring the commitments we have made in past years. To maximize our effectiveness, we engage in a full scope of work on a limited number of campaigns, and impact other campaigns in a more limited way by submitting official JUFJ testimony and/or signing JUFJ’s name to a list of supporters.
For more information about our additional legislative positions, click here.
For more information about our agenda setting process for the Maryland 2024 state legislative session, click here.
Additional Legislative Positions:
In addition to JUFJ’s key legislative priorities, we support and will provide testimony on the following bills:
- Eviction Diversion (HB691/SB564) – Increase due process for renters facing eviction and provide increased opportunities for existing protections and resources to reach resolutions other than eviction.
- Just Cause Eviction (HB881) – Prohibit landlords from terminating or not renewing leases unless they have a legitimate reason to do so.
- Tenant Screening (HB134) – Reform the tenant screening industry, which is currently a barrier to housing.
- Tenants’ Right to Organize (HB392) – Establish a right for renters to organize among themselves for collective action in tenant/landlord matters and prevent landlord interference.
- Tenant Protection Act (HB86/SB6) – Provides Maryland renters four concise, long-needed, meaningful reforms that help balance landlord-tenant relations.
- Lead Inspection Certificate and Rental License Proof in Failure to Pay Rent actions (HB101) – This will provide more enforcement of lead inspection and rental licensing requirements.
- Rental License Proof in Failure to Pay Rent actions (HB174) – Supports localities in the enforcement of their rental licensing ordinances.
- Reducing Eviction Filings (HB298/SB223) – raises filing fees for landlords to evict renters
One who rents a house to another is obligated to construct doors and to fix broken windows, to reinforce the ceiling and to fix broken beams, and to provide a bolt and a lock and similar things which are produced by skilled craftspeople and which are essential to living in a house.
– Maimonides, Laws of Rental 6:3
The Torah obligates us to preserve our own life and health, and that of others. The Gemara in Bava Kamma teaches that, in response to a plague, we have an obligation to stay in our homes as much as possible. We are also taught that all people should have dei machsoro, resources sufficient for each person’s needs. (Deut. 15:7-8) Consequently, society has an obligation to make sure that people can stay in their homes, especially during a time of pandemic.
Safe and stable housing has far reaching economic, health, and social benefits to individuals, families, and communities, and is key to reducing racial inequities. Renters routinely have little agency when faced with threats to maintaining stable housing. Now many are confronting increased economic hardship, the shortcomings of eviction mitigation policy, and the extreme threat to health resulting from homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The People: Renters who are living at or below the poverty line and/or who have experienced pandemic-related loss of income. Those who find themselves in rent court are overwhelmingly women, African Americans, households with minor children, and who receive no housing subsidy.
- Emergency Response:
- Eviction prevention – Expand current policy to cover all eviction filings until January 31, 2022 to allow for economic recovery and additional legislative action as needed.
- Robust rental assistance – Allocate at least $244M to provide rental assistance for citizens and non-citizens to prevent evictions. Funds should go directly to landlords, who would have to certify that the money is used to satisfy the debt of their tenants.
- Just Cause Eviction – Prohibit landlords from terminating the lease of a tenant unless they have a legitimate reason to do so. During a pandemic, failure to pay rent is not a legitimate reason. Landlords should not be permitted to terminate leases or choose not to renew them unless they truly have a good reason.
- Tenant Screening Reform – Establish tenant screening regulations to prevent the use of irrelevant, incomplete or inaccurate information that creates barriers to adequate housing. Tenants should have a rapid method to challenge questionable information. Expungement of eviction records should be permitted and evictions that do not involve monetary issues should be excluded from credit reports.
- Structural Change:
- Safe and habitable housing – Reform the rent escrow process and enforcement mechanisms for tenants whose landlords fail to remedy unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Legislation should define uniform standards for mold assessment and remediation, and allow a renter to terminate a lease early if defects are not addressed.
- Due process – Change the process for eviction filings to be more fair and equitable for renters. Specifically, tenants should have at least 21 days notice rather than 5 days from the filling of an eviction complaint to a court date.
- Right to Counsel – Provide tenants with the right to legal counsel/representation in rent court. This would provide greater equity in court, where currently less than 5% of tenants have legal counsel, while landlords are represented in over 95% of cases. Moreover, a recent study in Baltimore City concluded that establishing a right to counsel would reduce evictions and thereby save the State $18.1M due to decreased Medicaid and foster care costs.
- Collection of eviction data – Establish a system to accurately track eviction data across Maryland that would better define the scope of the problem and guide the development of policy to reduce the incidence of eviction and stabilize housing.
Key Partners: CASA, Renters’ United Maryland.
December 5 | 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Join other District 41 JUFJers in a Zoom meeting with our state legislators to discuss our agenda for the 2024 Maryland General Assembly Session.
December 11 | 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Join other District 21 JUFJers in a Zoom meeting with our State Senator to discuss our agenda for the 2024 Maryland General Assembly Session. We will have an optional Chanukah candlelighting prior to the meeting.
December 13 | 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Join other District 10 JUFJers in a Zoom meeting with our state legislators to discuss our agenda for the 2024 Maryland General Assembly Session. We will have an optional Chanukah candlelighting prior to the meeting.
December 14 | 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Jewish sacred texts recognize that having safe, stable housing is key to a healthy society. Join us for our next Montgomery County Housing Team meeting to get updates about our ongoing campaigns, bring in some Chanukah cheer, and write cards to each other and our partners!