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Maryland bill hopes to stop wild rent increases

In 2022, a woman in Prince George's County got a $800 rent increase and 30 days to decide.

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. — Last year was a tough one for renters. New federal government numbers show that rents increased by 12% on average in the first half of the year.  A Maryland lawmaker wants to make sure that tenants are protected if we see rental jumps like that again.

This month WUSA9 took a Zoom call with a woman who had her own story of an unreasonable rent increase.

“I got a rent increase of $800,” Kia Jefferson of Laurel, Maryland said.

RELATED: Prince George's County exploring idea of rent control

“I thought it was a typo, my rent has gone up every year for the 18 years I’ve lived here, but not $800.”

Jefferson isn’t a stranger to rental increases in her apartment. But the 50% increase in 2022? To make matters worse she had a short timeline to decide.

“Where am I going to go in 23 days?” she said of her decision.

“We were seeing a new tidal wave of affordability issues really piqued our interest,” Maryland Delegate Melissa Wells said.

Wells started working on legislation in 2022 to find a way to provide relief from these increases. Delegate Wells’ bill would make it so landlords would have to give 120 days notice on any rent increase above 4%

Delegate Wells' bill will go in front of the Maryland legislature this month.

“We are simply asking for landlords to provide notice,” Wells said. “In this case we want to make sure landlords aren’t forcing people into making crisis decisions.”

People like Kia Jefferson and her wild 2022 rental increase. In the end, community group CASA negotiated with Kia’s landlord.

They reached an agreement to bring down the roughly 13% increase, which Jefferson signed.

However, it has made her unsure of whether to stay for her next lease.  

“Where it stands now is my lease will be up in four months so I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said.

We also reached out to Jefferson’s landlord Cameron’s Commercial Real Estate to find out why rents went up significantly for Jefferson’s apartment complex.

They responded and wrote:

“Renovated rents at 332 are achieving $1,550 and unrenovated will be $1,300. I think there is one remaining tenant there and she got the wrong rent increase. $1,300 would be the lowest 1BR rent in all of Laurel. Rents have gone up because of several factors.

  • Common area renovations - the building has new floors, paint, trim, new boiler coming, new windows, new roofs, we paved the gravel driveway and assigned parking, new lighting to name some of the $~200,000 budget that was allocated.
  • Inflation (electric increased 6% last year, gas increased 25%, labor, supplies, etc)

I believe the last tenant received a renewal letter at 5% over $1,350, which is what their rent was from 2022. We are reaching back out to change this to $1,300 unrenovated and $1,550 renovated.”

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