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Rent Court and Eviction Reform

Baltimore City faces an eviction crisis: landlords annually evict as many as 7,000 Baltimore families for not paying the rent. The crisis takes a particularly heavy toll on Black women, who make up the vast majority of people called to rent court. With so many cases, rent court is designed for speed and steers tenants away from defending themselves. This system favors landlords, whose representatives are frequently at rent court. When a tenant can’t afford a lawyer, she stands alone, trying to defend her family and home against a landlord who likely has an experienced agent or lawyer.

We provide legal advice, representation, and know-your-rights education to tenants in Baltimore’s rent court, as well as to tenants whose landlords have entered foreclosure, retaliated against them or otherwise tried to evict them. We also use class action lawsuits, advocacy with government agencies, and legislative advocacy to change practices and policies so that tenants can maintain stable and safe housing. We are stronger when we do this work together, and we are grateful for our partnerships with community organizing groups, advocacy organizations, and private law firms.

If you are a renter looking for legal assistance, call us at (410) 625-9409 or visit our Get Legal Help page for more information.

Impact

Worked in coalition to support passage of a law that requires all residential rental properties to undergo routine inspection and licensing to do business in Baltimore City.

Filed a class action lawsuit against a property management company that charged tenants illegal, excessive fees. The resulting settlement got tenants nearly $1 million in compensation and changed the landlord’s practices.

Worked in coalition to support passage of a law that prohibits landlords in Baltimore City from discriminating against tenants based on their source of income.

Secured a precedent-setting decision in Lockett v. Blue Ocean stating that rent is the fixed, monthly amount a tenant owes to live in the home and not any other fees the landlord might charge. This is important for preventing landlords from trying to collect extra non-rent charges through the rapid eviction process.

Wrote the report Justice Diverted: How Renters are Processed in the Baltimore City Rent Court, which provides a deep dive into Baltimore’s eviction crisis. The data demonstrates how the outcome of an eviction case often does not depend on the merits of the case. Rather, the fate of a family’s home rides on a court system that puts long-standing tenant protections and basic housing standards second to court efficiency and landlords’ bottom line.

Worked in coalition to support passage of a law that prohibits landlords and foreclosure sale purchasers from evicting or locking out a homeowner or tenant without court process or the presence of the Sheriff.

Worked in coalition to support passage of a law stating that tenants must be notified when a foreclosure is pending on their homes.

Worked in coalition to support a law that protects tenants from landlord retaliation when they exercise their rights to make complaints about dangerous housing conditions, participate in lawsuits, or join tenant unions.