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Montgomery County Council introduces bill to freeze rent during coronavirus

This freeze would apply during states of emergency as declared by the governor or the County Executive and during "catastrophic health" emergencies.

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Montgomery County may be the next local jurisdiction to enact a temporary rent freeze.

The County Council was expected to introduce a bill on April 14 that would ban any rent increases during, or within the 30 days following, some states of emergency. Expedited Bill 18-20 would also require landlords who previously notified a tenant of a rent increase to let their tenant(s) know to disregard the increase. 

Councilmember Will Jawando is the lead sponsor

"We need to protect our renters," Jawando said. "This is a bill to stop rent increases and for those who are doing the right thing, I commend them. Let's get the word out that we should protect everybody by law."

This freeze would apply during states of emergency as declared by Maryland's governor or the County Executive and during "catastrophic health" emergencies, as declared by the governor. 

The bill also requires the Department of Housing and Community Affairs to post appropriate information on its website regarding the prohibition against rent increases during emergencies. The website must include information about each emergency, including its expiration date and the date that occurs 30 days after the expiration.

"The goal of this legislation is to prevent landlords from increasing a tenant’s rent during an emergency that may impact the ability of tenants to pay that increase," Jawando said.

The Council will meet remotely on April 15, at which time the bill will be introduced. Officials said that a public hearing and vote are scheduled for next week.

Leaders and tenant advocates across the D.C. area are continuously calling on officials to step up protections for renters amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Back on March 26, the U.S. Department Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed more than 100,000 people filed unemployment claims between Maryland, D.C., and Virginia from March 14 through March 21.

WUSA9 previously reached out to Jack Gillis, executive director for the Consumer Federation of America, about how to best handle mortgage and rent payments.

"This is a huge problem for the average consumer because let's face it, our financial well-being plays a major role in our physical well-being," Gillis said. "So, if we're worried and anxious about paying our mortgage, paying our car loans, paying our rent, it can have a detrimental effect on our overall attitude."

CONTACT THE PEOPLE YOU OWE IMMEDIATELY

Gillis said the first thing people, who are concerned about their financial stability should do, is make a list of all the payments they owe, and then contact their landlord or mortgage company immediately.

"That's the most important thing consumers can do to protect themselves and to get the benefits many of these folks are offering in terms of forbearance," he said.

Gillis said whether the communication is by letter, email or phone call, just make sure to contact the people you owe as quickly as possible. After that, keep a record of what happened during your correspondence, he said. 

"If they offered for you to skip a rent payment, make sure to find out who made that offer and when they made it," he said.

PAY SOMETHING NOW

While you may not be able to pay your rent or mortgage in full now, that does not mean you should forgo your payment altogether, according to Gillis. He recommends offering to pay your landlord or mortgage company a partial payment in the interim.

"This will end at some point in the future, and you will owe the money," he said. "So, the more you can pay, even if it's not the full amount to your landlord, or for your mortgage or for your auto loan, the better off you're going to be at the end of the process."

CONTACT YOUR BANK

Gillis said taking out a loan might offer a short-term solution for people facing rent or mortgage troubles, too. He said people should contact their banks to see if they are offering any help.

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