An amendment by Councilmember Andrew Friedson that would have allowed rents to increase up to 5% was soundly defeated 7 to 2. The final version of Bill 18-20, which passed unanimously, was amended with language offered by Councilmember Tom Hucker that codifies the County's voluntary Rent Increase Guidelines to cap rent increases at 2.6% and would extend the provisions of this measure for 180 days after the emergency has been lifted. The bill as passed would still allow landlords to charge late fees.
Councilmember Jawando, who advocated strongly for a zero increase and prohibition on late fees, said he was pleased with the bill's passage:
"I appreciate the advocacy of the Renter’s Alliance and many other organizations as we fought for a freeze on rent increases during the COVID public health emergency. While I would have strongly preferred to halt all rent increases and late fees, I am pleased that the most offensive increases will not move forward and that many of our residents will benefit,” he said.
The Renters Alliance strongly supported the passage of this legislation in its original form with a zero increase and prohibition of late fees. William J. Roberts, Esq., who chairs the organization's Board of Directors, expressing disappointment in the amendments, was nevertheless pleased that some protection for renters ultimately passed.
"Bill 18-20 is a necessary measure during a national public health and economic emergency," he said. "It was meant to provide protection to renters from fees and housing cost increases during this unprecedented time and also keep renters economically stable so that no one is forced to move when we are all being asked to stay home. We fought for a freeze of all increases and fees to provide maximum protection and flexibility to renters. To be clear, the bill does not do all that we wanted, but it will provide a measure of relief and security for many as we endure this pandemic and it will stop the most egregious increases in their tracks.
We thank the Council for recognizing the need for emergency protections for renters, and we especially thank Councilmembers Jawando, Navarro, and Rice for fighting for a total rent freeze to keep our renter population stable and safe in their homes".
As this new law is implemented by the executive branch, we encourage renters to continue to be in communication with their landlords about their status and to continue to look to the Renters Alliance for information and support.