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'People are suffering' | Renters fear losing their homes as rent cap expires in Montgomery County

The pandemic protection limited how much a landlord could increase the rent.

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Some residents in Maryland fear rent increases could force them out of their homes, now that their pandemic protection is over. 

Landlords in Montgomery County were banned from raising rents beyond .4% for the past two years. That cap expired on May 15.

Monday, May 16 was moving day for Patricia Beckham. The retired nurse was forced to downsize to a smaller apartment after two increases pushed her rent to nearly $2,200 a month.

“Not only that but the facilities have gone up too,” she said. “Parking, storage and we’re on a fixed income! I’m really concerned. I think it’s outrageous and to some degree, it’s immoral to continue to go up on rent for residents that are on fixed incomes.”

Legislation spearheaded by Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando put a cap on rent increases for the past 2 years, but starting Monday landlords can increase rents.  

“At any one time in Montgomery County, one of the wealthiest counties in the world, we see between 10 to 15,000 renters still behind on their rent,” said Matt Losak, executive director of the Montgomery County Renters Alliance.

Losak said nearly 40% of county residents are renters, a figure that’s up from 23% in 2007.

“Rents have gone up since 2019, during the pandemic on average 8.3%," explained Losak. “We think we’re going to see an increase much higher than that. Takoma Park, the only rent-stabilized municipality in this area, is going to be raising rents over 7%.” 

Losak said compounding that is the demand for housing in the region that is pushing up rent and property values. 

“There’s an incredible amount of pressure on renters who are low income and struggling to move out,” he said.

As for Beckham, she said she understands the business needs of landlords. She just hopes for a compromise that will keep people in their homes.

“I’m all for them making a living and a profit but it has to be reasonable,” said Beckham. “They have to balance because people are suffering and they’re afraid.”

Advocates said there is still some federal money available in phase four of the county’s Covid Rent Relief Fund. If you’re still struggling to pay the bills dial 311 for help.  

Renters in Montgomery County aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch, rent relief programs in Virginia expired on March 15.

RELATED: Montgomery County Emergency Rental Assistance Program Application Portal to Close Dec. 31

RELATED: Gov. Hogan announces new affordable housing package, creating thousands of new affordable units in Maryland

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