‘We’re watching’: Md. Attorney General warns landlords against using discriminatory practices

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown wants to protect renters from discriminatory landlords in the Old Line State, but so far, the law has tied his hands.

“Up until now, the Office of the Attorney General in Maryland had a very small role in enforcing federal and state civil rights laws,” Brown told WTOP after 100 days in office.

That’s because for 53 years, the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights has been the only state entity allowed to fight discrimination.

But that’s expected to change once Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signs the Civil Rights Enforcement bill (SB 540). The bill gives Maryland’s top prosecutor the power to protect residents from civil rights violations.

“I’ll have a new tool to enforce federal and state civil rights laws to protect all Marylanders, much like I have in consumer protection,” Brown said.

A report in 2022 found that more than 400 housing discrimination complaints were investigated by the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights over the past three years.

When asked what he’ll do with these new prosecutorial powers, Brown quickly pointed to a 2022 lawsuit mounted by former D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine against three real estate firms in the city.

“Karl Racine was fantastic,” Brown said. “He brought a housing discrimination case in the District of Columbia based on source of income, which resulted in the single largest housing discrimination settlement in U.S. history — $10 million. But more important, a lot of injunctive relief, preventing future misconduct like that.”

Once SB 540 becomes law, Brown said he’ll start looking for this sort of discrimination in Maryland.

“If that type of source of income discrimination is happening in the District of Columbia, I can assure you there’s a strong and high likelihood it’s happening in other parts of the National Capital Region like Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and perhaps even other places in Maryland,” Brown said.

The Civil Rights Enforcement bill allows the Office of the Attorney General to work with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights and it gives Brown sweeping authority to protect the civil rights of state residents.

“If you plan on discriminating based on source of income, race, ethnicity, gender identification or sexual orientation in Maryland, I can tell you right now, the Office of the Attorney General, we’re going to be watching.”

Luke Garrett

Luke Garrett is a D.C. native dedicated to journalism. He is a reporter and the creator, host and producer of the original WTOP podcast, “DMV Download.” The podcast debuted in 2022. On the show, Garrett takes a weekly look at the biggest stories and ideas in the D.C. region.

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