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Many Montgomery Co. renters to see new rights, protections

WASHINGTON — Those who rent their homes in Montgomery County will soon have added rights and protections under a new council bill that the county executive is expected to approve.

About 40 percent of the county rents their homes, so the bill is a long time coming, said Matt Losak, with the Montgomery County Renters Alliance.

“If you look in downtown Silver Spring, Bethesda and Rockville, you’ll see — they’re building rental housing on every green space that there is,” Losak said.

“It’s pretty fundamental, common-sense legislation … for example, requiring a landlord to offer a two-year lease at each lease renewal — that’s important,” added Losak, who has worked with the tenants work group for four years.

Other provisions in the bill, which passed the council unanimously this week, requires landlords to provide detailed utility bills and free space for renters to meet; it also expands the county’s code enforcement.

Former county councilman Steve Silverman, who represented major county property owners such Buzzuto, Tower Cos., Southern Management and Washington Property, called the bill fair. “It creates a balanced inspection approach that’s focused on problem buildings rather than every building in the county,” he said.

County Executive Ike Leggett is expected to sign the bill. If it becomes law, those buildings with previous complaints or violations would be subject to more frequent scrutiny in inspections.

“We’re going to inspect every building in the next two years [that] I’d characterize as troubled properties,” Silverman said. New buildings that pass an initial inspection will then be checked every three years.

There are some concerns about enforcement, Losak acknowledged. “It will be a continued challenge. We hope the department [of Housing and Community Affairs] will receive more information from tenants concerned their rights are being violated,” Losak said.

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