What rights should renters have?
A new report in Montgomery County asks the government to tip the rental balance of power more toward tenants than things currently stand -- including a cap on rent increases.
The Montgomery County Tenants Work Group, appointed by the county executive after renters advocated for improvements to their lot, is in favor of a law that would "maintain reasonable and predictable rent increases."
"Tenants who move for reasons of greater affordability report that they cannot anticipate remaining in a rental unit or complex for more than one or two years, due to the unpredictable nature of rent increases," the group writes in its report. "More than 43 percent of renters in the Renter Satisfaction Survey [commissioned by the group] reported that they are not confident that they will be able to afford to live in Montgomery County in the future."
In that survey, almost 20 percent of renters said their annual rent increases topped 7 percent. About half said their annual rent increases were in the 4 to 7 percent range.
The group, in case you're wondering, includes renters, renter advocates, government officials and two people representing the landlord point of view -- a property manager and an Apartment and Office Building Association representative. (UPDATE: The Apartment and Office Building Association notes that it, the property manager and the county officials didn't vote on the recommendations -- those were made by the renters.)
Takoma Park already has a rent stabilization law, the group notes. (New York is probably the city best known for its controls on rent increases.)
UPDATE: The Apartment and Office Building Association's W. Shaun Pharr takes issue with the idea. In a statement this morning, he said: "Rent control is a failed social and housing policy that has been outlawed in 34 states because of the damage it causes to a community's housing stock by discouraging investment in rental housing."
I thought this might spark discussion among Baltimore renters -- and landlords. What do you think of the recommendation?
The tenant group, by the way, suggests that any law include an allowance "for renters to contribute reasonable additional payments beyond the cost of rent to cover the cost of unit improvement."
Other suggestions from the group:
--"The required 60-day notice that landlords must give tenants regarding rent increases should be extended to 90 days."
--"Pass a 'just-cause' eviction law in Montgomery County, which would only allow for evictions for reasons that would be specified under the law, such as delinquent payment; criminal activity involving the tenant, on the property; substantial damage to the rental unit; or a move by the owner to permanently remove the unit from the rental market so they or a family member might occupy it."
--"A majority of the tenants (51 percent) must vote to approve a condo conversion."
It's tough economic times for everyone, apartment owners not excepted. Rentjungle.com, one of the apartment-search sites out there, says average rent decreased about 4 percent in Baltimore in the last six months -- a $40 drop.
"Difficulties in the real estate market didn't push as many people into apartments as the industry would have expected," Rentjungle.com founder Rick Ferris said in a statement. "Increases in families renting instead of buying were offset by existing renters taking on roommates or moving back with parents."
The company's figure is based off advertised prices. I'm curious if anyone's personally experiencing a rent drop, from the tenant or landlord side of things. Or a big rent increase, for that matter.