On July 18, the Montgomery County Council passed a landmark rent stabilization bill, intending to curb predatory landlord practices in the county. Bill 15-23, which was signed into law on July 24, sets a hard cap on annual rent increases based on the region’s consumer price index (CPI-U) plus 3%, up to a maximum of 6% of base rent. In a county where rents continue to climb to untenable levels, amid a national housing crisis, this legislation is a welcome development for many residents.
According to reporting by Katie Shepherd at the The Washington Post, prior to the bill’s passage, “Several council members have said they felt compelled to act after receiving more than 100 complaints of striking instances when landlords raised rents by double-digit percentages, straining tenants’ budgets and forcing some to find new places to live. The proposed legislation could apply to as many as 400,000 Montgomery residents — 40 percent of the county’s population — who rely on rental housing.”
At the July 18 hearing, council President Evan Glass began the proceedings by reiterating the need for serious consideration of the bill to alleviate the suffering of county residents. “I personally have heard from residents who have had their rents increased by double digits—in some cases 30-35%. I’ve seen the letters; I know it’s true,” he said. “I believe it is safe to say that we are unified in saying double-digit rent increases are wrong.”
A coalition of 40 organizations sent a letter to the council on July 17, advocating for passage of the bill with amendments. The coalition, comprising labor unions, direct service providers, climate organizations, LGBTQIA+ rights groups, tenant unions, and faith-based institutions, urged the council to pass the bill and suggested multiple amendments — primarily the addition of vacancy control and tighter fees regulation to further protect residents from landlords who would exploit loopholes in the bill to raise rents above the proposed 6% cap.
“Rent stabilization is essential to ensure that tenants, many of who [sic] have lived here for years, can continue calling Montgomery County their homes,” the coalition wrote. “Families and children cannot thrive if they are concerned about being pushed out.” Members of the coalition staged a rally outside the city council chambers and packed the council chamber in support of the bill.
During deliberations of the amendments to the bill, Councilmember Gabe Albornoz stressed the importance of careful deliberation of the proposed amendments to the legislation. “We have to be very careful here. This is the most consequential piece of legislation this council has passed in the last 20 years, full stop. And we’ve got to get it right.” The deliberations of the amendments to the bill took much of the afternoon on July 18, and were followed by a 7-4 final vote.
According to reporting by Ginny Bixby and Elia Griffin at MoCo360, those deliberations included amendments that were “more controversial and led to substantial debate among councilmembers. The council voted against an amendment that would have increased the cap on rent increases from 6% percent [sic] to 9%. The council also voted to approve an amendment to restrict how much landlords can increase tenants’ fees.” MoCo360 also reported that an amendment to sunset the legislation after five years also failed, ensuring that the bill would be virtually permanent.
After the passage of the bill, the coalition released a statement that congratulated the council and reiterated their commitment to long-term housing justice in the county. “Our movement centered the needs of renters. Renters inspired this multi-year campaign, co-created legislation, fought hard for their rights, and won. Close to forty percent of Montgomery County residents are renters; while far from perfect, with a rate higher than the 3% cap that advocates originally pushed for, the final bill will protect hundreds of thousands of tenants from skyrocketing rents. No longer can predatory landlords displace tenants in order to raise the rent higher than reasonable.”
Celebrations of the bill’s passage were posted across social media, with Councilmember Will Jawando posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, “Today is a momentous day for tenants and landlords in Montgomery County. We are the first county in Maryland to enact permanent rent stabilization.” Jews United for Justice, an advocacy group and coalition member, also posted their celebration, saying, in part, “After years of organizing by thousands of activists across dozens of groups, hundreds of thousands of renters will benefit. Now we rest.”