Montgomery County renters report illegal increases during pandemic

Some Montgomery County, Maryland, residents are complaining of illegal rent increases during the pandemic, despite a 2.6% cap on rent hikes approved by the county council in April.

The Montgomery County Renters Alliance said residents of The Enclave Silver Spring on Oak Leaf Drive in White Oak have reported rent increases of as much as 20%; and at the Park Montgomery Apartments on Piney Branch Road in Silver Spring, residents said they have received rent hikes of 24-33%.

During a virtual Renter Town Hall organized by the Alliance on Thursday night, a renter asked, “My landlord has tried to add an additional utility charge, double the allowable rent increase. He says, since it’s a utility charge and not a rent increase, he can charge what he wants. What are my options?”

The executive director of the Alliance, Matt Losak, responded.

“If the landlord is saying, ‘Hey look, I’m going to charge you extra utility money just because I’m making up what I couldn’t make up … in the rent because of the 2.6% cap,’ that is a violation,” Losak said.

The resident was urged to file a complaint with the county’s Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs, or OLTA.

Another renter reported being charged an extra $100 a month to switch to a month-to-month lease agreement from a longer lease. That’s against the law if it means your rent increases by more than the county’s cap.

Rosie McCray-Moody, with OLTA, said she has received several complaints about this very situation.

“We’re working on it. We have some buildings that we know are doing it. We’re working with management right now, even as I speak, to get this under control,” she said.

The county’s cap on rent increases will remain in effect during Maryland’s coronavirus-related state of emergency, and for 90 days after it ends.

Montgomery County’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs has resources for renters. The Montgomery County Renters Alliance has a summary of tenant rights.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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