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Fairness before fees! Tell the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to oppose SB 493

February 15, 2018: With SB 493, landlords could label anything from water bills to repair costs as “added rent” in tenants' leases and then sue to evict them in the state’s fastest collections method: Rent Court. Most landlords already do this, but when they file eviction cases in Rent Court, judges may strike the “added rent” charges. This bill would take that power away from judges, even if they think certain charges aren’t fair or correct.

Should renters pay what they owe? Of course! The problem is that the bill puts disputes over these extra charges into Rent Court, instead of proper trials where a judge can fairly decide liability for repair charges, code enforcement fines, water bills, or hidden fees.

Today we’re in Annapolis testifying against this bill. For a preview, check out this video with PJC attorney Zafar Shah.

You can add your voice by calling the chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, Senator Bobby Zirkin, as well as members of the committee to tell them to oppose SB 493. Contact information for members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee can be found at the bottom of the page.

Why vote NO?

Lack of transparency and unpredictable billing
This so-called “Rent Transparency Act” would make billing less transparent and unpredictable. It promotes misdirection of monthly rent payments to hidden and fluctuating non-rent fees, including maintenance costs and utility bills that may not be accurate. This would leave renters constantly uncertain of what is due and what is paid.

More evictions
The bill gives landlords the quickest, easiest debt collection tool allowed by Maryland law - eviction. When it's "pay or leave" time, landlords bet they'll get paid. It takes about two weeks to get an eviction order in Rent Court. Compare that to two months in a typical debt case. Under this bill, landlords won't have to wait - any charge labeled "added rent" will become grounds for evicting someone. That's not fair, and it's not helping our state prevent displacement and homelessness.

For more information about the PJC’s legislative work on rent court reform, contact Zafar Shah at (410) 625-9409 x237 or shahz@publicjustice.org. For general inquiries about legislation, contact John Nethercut at (410) 625-9409 x238 or nethercutj@publicjustice.org.  

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee
Robert A. Zirkin, Chair (District 11, Baltimore County): (410) 841-3131, (301) 858-3131, bobby.zirkin@senate.state.md.us

Delores G. Kelley, Vice-Chair (District 10, Baltimore County): (410) 841-3606, (301) 858-3606, delores.kelley@senate.state.md.us

James Brochin (District 42, Baltimore County): (410) 841-3648, (301) 858-3648, jim.brochin@senate.state.md.us

Robert G. Cassilly (District 34, Harford County): (410) 841-3158, (301) 858-3158, bob.cassilly@senate.state.md.us

Michael J. Hough (District 4, Carroll & Frederick Counties): (410) 841-3704, (301) 858-3704, michael.hough@senate.state.md.us

Susan C. Lee (District 16, Montgomery County): (410) 841-3124, (301) 858-3124, susan.lee@senate.state.md.us

C. Anthony Muse (District 26, Prince George’s County): (410) 841-3092, (301) 858-3092, anthony.muse@senate.state.md.us

Wayne Norman (District 35, Cecil and Harford Counties): (410) 841-3603, (301) 858-3603, wayne.norman@senate.state.md.us

Victor R. Ramirez (District 47, Prince George’s County): (410) 841-3745, (301) 858-3745, victor.ramirez@senate.state.md.us

Justin D. Ready (District 5, Carroll County): (410) 841-3683, (301) 858-3683, justin.ready@senate.state.md.us

William C. Smith, Jr. (District 20, Montgomery County): (410) 841-3634, (301) 858-3634, will.smith@senate.state.md.us

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