December 15, 2022
Baltimore Renters United (BRU) recently scored a victory for tenants’ rights when Baltimore City Sheriff Sam Cogen ended the Sheriff’s Office practice of posting eviction notices in mailrooms or outside of apartment complexes instead of on tenants’ doors as required by law. When eviction notices were posted in common areas, tenants often did not know when their eviction was happening, making the already-violent eviction process even more traumatic.
The change in practice comes after several months of advocacy by members of BRU, including the Public Justice Center, to stop illegal practices like this one, cut the Sheriff’s Office budget, and reallocate the funds to support the City’s right to counsel in evictions program. During three hearings in January and June, BRU testified and Baltimore City Council members questioned then-Sheriff John Anderson and his deputies about illegal eviction practices, including: posting eviction notices in common areas, refusing to provide information about a pending eviction if the tenant called the Office, and proceeding with evictions without checking if the property is licensed and sometimes even when the tenant has paid to stay in the home.
Throughout June, BRU drew attention to the Sheriff’s Office’s unconstitutional practices and called for the City Council to respond by redirecting money from the Sheriff’s budget to support a right to counsel in evictions. BRU kept up the pressure by live-tweeting the hearings (#StiffTheSheriff) and giving interviews with the press. On June 23, the City Council voted to cut $500,000 from the Sheriff’s budget. After a public pressure campaign, BRU secured commitments in September from the Mayor’s Office to provide $400,000 for right to counsel education and outreach and to collaborate with BRU to address delays in the delivery of eviction prevention funds to tenants.
With eviction uprooting thousands of Baltimore families each year, the need to address harmful eviction practices is urgent. BRU’s recent victories add momentum to our advocacy for housing justice in Baltimore. We encourage the Sheriff to take further steps to protect tenants’ constitutional rights and stop wrongful evictions, and we urge the Mayor’s Office to implement its pledge to fund education and outreach for eviction right to counsel.