How a Proposed Bill in Baltimore Would Impact Landlords, Renters

Where you live can make a big difference in how you and your children get on in the world. Better neighborhoods don’t just have less crime and less environmental pollution. They also afford their residents access to higher performing schools, better quality stores, and higher-quality apartment amenities. This can mean more long-term opportunities for your children and a significant reduction in stress, which can lead to a healthy and longer life.

That’s why the city of Baltimore’s Council Bill 18-0308, which Councilmember Ryan Dorsey introduced in December, 2018, is so important. This legislation proposes to end housing discrimination based solely on source of income. While prospective tenants can still be refused housing based on other factors, like rental history or criminal background, they cannot be rejected because their income falls below a certain threshold without government subsidy.

Which Tenants Are Most Affected by Council Bill 18-0308?

The bill could potentially affect many low-income tenants from experiencing housing discrimination. However, it may have the greatest impact on individuals enrolled in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program, formerly known as “Section 8.” Most housing voucher recipients are elderly people, African American and female-headed households, and disabled individuals, including veterans. These vouchers help the most vulnerable members of society.

After waiting sometimes for years to receive an HCV voucher to subsidize their rent, qualified tenants find themselves unable to lease many Baltimore apartments even though the subsidy makes them affordable. That is because landlords deliberately restrict the number of apartments they will rent to HCV recipients. Moreover, those apartments tend to be located in disadvantaged parts of Baltimore.

The result is concentrated pockets of poverty, increased homelessness, and a lower standard of living for HCV program enrollees — the very opposite of what the voucher program has set out to accomplish. As long as landlords can reject prospective tenants on their source of income, they make it difficult for law-abiding citizens to lift themselves out of poverty and create an effective achievement barrier for the children of HCV enrollees.

How Will Council Bill 18-0308 Impact Landlords?

There is a national trend to protect against housing discrimination on the basis of source of income, but currently Baltimore prohibits the practice only in properties covered by its Inclusionary Housing Law. Council Bill 18-0308 expands the prohibition to nearly every apartment complex in the city; only owner-occupied buildings would be exempt from the city’s fair housing law.

Because some landlords invest less money in the infrastructure and maintenance of “Section 8” apartments, the bill has the potential to hurt landlords financially in the short run. There is also a far greater likelihood that tenants may sue apartment complex owners for housing discrimination.

However, the proposed legislation could potentially transform housing in the city of Baltimore, distributing HCV enrollees and individuals dependent on other forms of government aid more equitably throughout the city and giving children a better chance to break the poverty cycle.

If you think that you or a loved one has been the victim of housing discrimination or you are landlord who wants to ensure you are complying with local and state regulations, contact Lusk Law, LLC to set up your consultation with a qualified Maryland landlord law attorney today.

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