Montgomery County Executive Leggett proposes 11-point renters plan

Short of rent control, proposal seeks more transparency

by Kate S. Alexander,  Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 18, 2012

As the Montgomery County Council discusses renter rights, County Executive Isiah Leggett has offered an 11-point plan to strengthen the county’s voluntary rental guidelines.

Leggett (D) opposes rent control because it could stifle economic development and limit affordable housing stock.

Still, he said he believes changes are necessary to better serve renters.

Leggett’s plan comes as the county’s Planning Housing and Economic Development committee continues discussions of rental issues, during which Councilman Marc B. Elrich floated the idea of rent stabilization.

“I feel it is not wise to pursue that effort,” Leggett said of rent stabilization, adding “but I do believe there are things we can do.”

Leggett’s proposal would not prevent large rent increases, but rather make increases more transparent. It would give tenants more warning, justification for increases and time to find alternative housing, he said.

Mandatory reporting of rent increases, unit by unit, would be required under Leggett’s plan, as would enforcement of existing fines of up to $1,000 for landlords who do not submit a required rental survey. Data collected by the survey would be published on the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) website. Continue reading

College Park suspends rent control law

New task force will spend year looking for ways to resolve rental housing issues

by Holly Nunn, Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The College Park City Council voted Tuesday to stop enforcement of the city’s controversial rent control law for one year while the city works with landlords to resolve challenges in the rental housing market.

The council passed an ordinance to extend the law for one year, but then passed a resolution to suspend enforcement of the law until September 2013.

“This gives us one year to explore different ways to get at the same issues the rent stabilization ordinance was meant to address,” said Councilman Patrick Wojahn (Dist. 1), who introduced the resolution to suspend enforcement of the law.

Some of the issues to be addressed, Wojahn said, include stabilizing the rate of owner-occupied homes in the city, public safety issues and code enforcement. The city has contended that renter-occupied homes lead to more code violations than owner-occupied homes.

While the ordinance — which caps rents for single-family homes and duplexes, but not for apartments or fraternity and sorority houses — was passed in 2005, it was not enforced until 2010, when it was upheld in court after a challenge from property owners. Continue reading

Rent control in College Park to remain after city reject landlords’ petition

Council to determine next steps at Tuesday worksession

by Holly Nunn, Staff Writer
Friday, April 27, 2012

A landlord association’s attempt to stop College Park from distinguishing between rental and resident-owned housing has hit a roadblock, leaving the city able to enforce rental controls that landlords and some residents say hurt the area’s housing market and deter renting.

Lisa Miller, president of the Prince George’s Property Owners Association, which submitted petitions signed by about 10,000 residents to amend the city charter, said the group is consulting with lawyers to determine what to do next after city attorney Suellen Ferguson ruled the documents invalid.

“I’m not surprised that the city is doing this, but I think it’s unconscionable that they’re disenfranchising thousands of citizens this way,” Miller said.

College Park’s rent-control law applies to single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes and quadraplexes — but not to apartments, hotels, fraternities and sororities — and was enacted in 2005 to protect tenants from unwarranted rent increases.

Landlords of single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes and quadraplexes can charge no more than the Housing and Urban Development D.C. Metro Area fair market value of $2,522 per building; or the documented rent in 2005; or 0.6 percent of the assessment value of the home for single-family homes; or 1 percent of the value for multi-family dwellings, whichever value is highest.

Opponents of the law say that it decreases home values for all property owners because potential homebuyers are less likely to buy if they cannot cover their costs by renting, especially in an area with a significant student population. Continue reading