PJC In The News

Examiner Reports on Next Steps for the Rental Housing Coalition

 

Local Retaliatory evictions are next issue for Baltimore City housing advocates 
 
Stephen Janis, The Examiner 
2007-10-05 
 
BALTIMORE - Unsightly piles of tenants’ furniture dumped on city sidewalks and lack of formal notice for evictions should be a thing of the past in Baltimore City, thanks to a new law just signed by Mayor Sheila Dixon. 
 
But housing advocates said the law is just the first step toward a long-term effort to improve tenants rights. 
 
“The next issue we want to tackle is landlord retaliation,” said John Netherecut, executive director of the Public Justice Center, a housing advocacy group. “We have some of the most lax laws in the country.” 
 
Netherecut, whose organization joined dozen of tenants rights groups to muster support for the new law, said strengthening the laws preventing landlords from evicting tenants who complain or call a housing inspector is next. 
 
“In most states, once the tenant alleges retaliation, that becomes part of a defense in an eviction case,” Netherecut said. 
 
“Then the judge hears the facts from both sides,” he said. 
 
But Kathy Howard, a lobbyist for the Maryland Multi-Housing Association, said any changes to the laws would add confusion to the eviction process. 
 
“When you’re talking about whether or not someone is doing something for a retaliatory motive, that gets into what a landlord is thinking — which can be very muddy,” she said. 
 
“The issue is whether or not the rent has been paid.” 
 
Dixon signed the “chattel” bill into law Monday. The law requires landlords to take an evicted tenant’s belongings to a dump. The law also ensures tenants receive 14 days’ notice prior to an eviction. 
 
The measure will improve the image of Baltimore, City Council President Stephanie-Rawlings-Blake said at a news conference Monday. “Children should be able to play outside without running into a living room set.” 
 
Outgoing Councilman Kenneth Harris, D-4th District, who introduced the chattel bill, said: “I don’t know if there is anyone on the council who has the agenda like I did to make sure renters are treated fairly.” 
 
sjanis@baltimoreexaminer.com


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