E-Alerts & Press Releases

City Council bills would make water affordable and prohibit housing discrimination for tenants

December 4, 2018

Two bills introduced in the Baltimore City Council on Monday would enhance tenants’ rights, ensuring affordable water rates and prohibiting landlords from discriminating based on a tenant’s source of income. City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young introduced the Water Accountability and Equity Act would make water rates affordable for the lowest income earners in the city and set forth an independent, fair dispute resolution process for all customers. The PJC is advocating  for the bill as a member of the Baltimore Right to Water Coalition, bringing our experience representing tenants in rent court. We frequently see landlords using exorbitant water bills to evict tenants, without addressing plumbing defects or billing errors with the City. The current system of bill disputes shuts renters out completely, unless their landlords provide the City written consent to engage the renter. Naturally, some landlords prefer to use the eviction process to resolve these issues. We hope that the Water Accountability and Equity Act will ensure that renters’ long-standing concerns about water billing are addressed.

Also on Monday, Councilman Ryan Dorsey introduced a bill to empower renters by prohibiting discrimination in housing based on source of income. “Source of income” refers to any lawful source of income from employment and government or private assistance, as well as alimony, child support, inheritance or gifts. Source of income discrimination often occurs when a landlord refuses to accept any tenant using the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program. This practice has a disparate impact on African American and female-headed households, elderly persons, people with disabilities, and veterans who often have these vouchers. Most voucher holders wait years to receive the housing subsidy and try for months to locate a landlord willing to accept it. The limited number of landlords willing to accept vouchers contributes to concentrations of poverty and even homelessness. This bill would increase tenants’ housing options and help combat deeply entrenched racial segregation throughout the region. We’re proud to play a significant role in the coalition of advocates pushing for passage of the bill.

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