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Democratic leaders from some of Maryland’s largest jurisdictions joined calls for a temporary statewide eviction moratorium in a letter sent this week to Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), arguing a more robust stay on evictions would give them time to stand up rent relief programs.
In the letter to Hogan, local leaders said they need more time to get federal rent relief funding to tenants and landlords. The letter, which was posted to the Maryland Association of Counties’ blog, was signed by Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott, Baltimore City Council President Nick J. Mosby and County Executives Angela D. Alsobrooks of Prince George’s County, Calvin B. Ball III (Howard), Marc B. Elrich (Montgomery), Jan H. Gardner (Frederick), and Steuart L. Pittman Jr. (Anne Arundel).
“We have the funding to keep people in their homes, but the State and counties need time to ensure that it reaches our communities,” the local leaders, all Democrats, wrote. “Governor Hogan, we urge you to take the critical step of declaring a targeted 90–120-day moratorium on failure to pay rent and tenant-holding-over eviction hearings in order to provide that time.”
Tenant-holding-over actions, which can occur when a tenant remains on a property after a lease ends, have seen an increase during the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, housing advocates have called on officials and legislators to expand current protections to include tenant-holding-over filings.
In asking for a longer moratorium, the local leaders joined a broad coalition of fair housing advocates, community groups and faith organizations that have petitioned Hogan for a 90-120 day moratorium on evictions after several tenant relief efforts failed to pass during the General Assembly’s 2021 legislative session.
That coalition argues that Hogan’s current executive order – which provides tenants a defense in certain eviction cases if they can prove a substantial loss of income tied to the COVID-19 pandemic – won’t be enough on its own to protect tenants as courts work through a massive backlog of eviction cases. That order is tied to Maryland’s state of emergency.
“Right now in many counties across the state, thousands of people are suddenly simultaneously facing eviction and courts are using ‘rocket dockets’ to work through case backlogs,” the coalition’s letter to Hogan and an accompanying petition read.
The local leaders wrote that a temporary stay on evictions would benefit tenants and landlords alike: Tenants would have time to apply for assistance and get relief funding, and landlords wouldn’t have to deal with “time-consuming and costly process of evicting tenants and re-leasing units,” the letter reads. Maryland has received more than $400 million in rental assistance funding during the pandemic, with more on the way as part of the latest federal stimulus package, according to the letter.
Hogan’s order was effective in keeping many tenants in their homes, particularly while courts were closed due to COVID-19, the local leaders wrote, but some evictions are still slipping through.
“In this challenging time, many people fail to attend hearings for a number of reasons, including COVID-related health concerns and inability to take time off of work,” the letter reads.
Between 109,000 and 204,000 renter households and Maryland could currently be at risk of eviction, according to estimates from the Chicago-based consulting firm Stout.
Earlier this week, a federal judge vacated a Centers for Disease Control stay on evictions, arguing the agency had overstepped its authority in issuing such an order. That order largely mirrored Hogan’s emergency tenant protections in providing renters with an affirmative defense in court.