Understanding the Baltimore County HOME Act
In November 2019, the Baltimore County Council approved legislation to prohibit landlords from rejecting renters solely based on their source of income. This bill, also known as the Baltimore County HOME Act (The Housing Opportunity Made Equal Act), aims to make housing opportunities equal. What does it mean, and how will it impact you when it goes into effect in January 2020?
WHAT IS “SOURCE OF INCOME”?
Source of income can refer to income from a lawful possession, occupation or job, receipt of a federal , state or local benefit, gift, inheritance, pension, annuity, alimony, child support or other consideration or benefits or the sale of pledge or property or an interest in property.
This bill would prohibit a landlord from denying potential renters solely based on income from any of these categories, including federal hosing vouchers.
WHAT IS THE FEDERAL HOUSING VOUCHER?
The housing voucher program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. It is funded by the federal government, state and local agencies to fill the gap between what families can afford to pay and local rents. This program only works if private landlords are willing to accept government subsidies and rent to voucher holders. Federal law does not prevent landlords from rejecting housing vouchers.
IF YOU ARE A LANDLORD
As a landlord, you will need to be more careful when you reject a potential renter. You will still able to review criminal history, run credit checks and request rental history, among other methods, to vet your potential renters, however, a renter’s source of income cannot be your sole consideration to turn away applicants.
Exceptions to the Act may apply if you meet all the following conditions: The properties you are trying to sell or rent contain four or fewer units; you do not own more than three such properties at one time; you do not hire a management firm or professional such as a real estate broker, agent, or salesperson to facilitate your purposes; and your publication, posting, advertisement, mailing or written notice does not violate the Act.
IF YOU ARE A RENTER
If you are a renter and use federal housing vouchers or any other forms of federal, state or local benefits to pay rent, this Act will increase your chances to be accepted in Baltimore County. In addition, Montgomery, Howard, Frederick and Anne Arundel counties also have similar laws prohibiting discrimination based on source of income.
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