The Biden administration recently issued a new eviction moratorium for areas of the country that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, but it is still necessary for Gov. Larry Hogan to issue an order to halt evictions in Maryland for at least the remainder of the year, one of the state’s leading housing advocates said Wednesday.
President Joe Biden announced the action on Tuesday. The 60-day extension is expected to help about 90% of the nation’s renters, many of whom live in the estimated 80% of U.S. counties where the Delta variant is spreading rapidly.
Biden’s announcement came just days after the previous eviction moratorium had expired.
The President conceded to reporters that he is not sure if the new moratorium, implemented by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), could survive a legal challenge.
Maryland does not have an actual eviction moratorium in place but the state does provide extensive legal protections to tenants who can demonstrate that their inability to pay rent is the direct result of the pandemic. And the state has provided tens of millions of dollars in rental assistance.
But rental protections will end on August 15 if the state does not reinstate them.
“We’ve never had a true moratorium, so I’m going to say no, none of this goes far enough to give tenants true protection – particularly from predatory landlords and management companies. If the governor is going to do anything, he should enact an actual ban on evictions until at least the end of 2021, but preferably well into 2022,” Fair Housing Action Center of Maryland Tenant Advocacy Director Carol Ott told MarylandReporter.com. “If we had a true moratorium from the beginning, we would not be in this fiscally irresponsible mess.”
Del. Jheanelle Wilkins, D-Montgomery, who has been at the forefront of crafting legislation to increase protections for tenants, said the fact that the previous federal moratorium had been allowed to expire is reason enough for Maryland to have its own moratorium on evictions.
“We cannot depend on the politics of Congress when it comes to the life and livelihood and the health and housing access for our Maryland residents. I absolutely agree with the many housing advocates who are urging Governor Hogan to extend his eviction protection executive order because we are seeing that COVID is unfortunately here to stay for the moment. And we need to continue to protect residents.”
But not everybody said they support a state moratorium on evictions or additional protections for renters.
“At some point that has got to come to an end,” Del. Brian Chisholm, R-Anne Arundel, said. “We still have a record number of job openings out there that are not being filled because we are telling people that we will pay them to stay home, rather than encouraging them to go back to work.”
Chisholm, who sits on the Health and Government Operations Committee, said rent forgiveness coupled with the widespread availability of enhanced unemployment benefits makes for a very bad situation.
“When you are not working and you are not making rental payments at some point this has a devastating effect on everybody. To encourage people to not make payments and not go back to work is a dangerous place to be in.”
Moreover, Chisholm noted that many landlords are not wealthy individuals but merely middle-class people who simply choose to rent out a room in their house.
“Are we going to offer a moratorium on tax payments from the landlords? Are we going to offer a moratorium on insurance payments for the landlords? Are we going to offer a moratorium on mortgage payments for the landlords? Of course, we are not. But those things go on.”
Hogan’s communications director, Michael Ricci, said in lieu of the looming expiration of rental protections the state is encouraging local governments to help tenants who are in need of assistance.
“After being in place for 17 months, Maryland’s eviction moratorium will expire on August 15. For more than a year, the state has been providing help to renters, and we continue to urge local jurisdictions to get relief committed as quickly as possible. According to the judiciary, in the large percentage of cases, landlords and tenants are able to reach agreements to avoid evictions.”