Supporters of a state bill that seeks to make it more difficult for landlords to dismiss tenants at will turned out Tuesday to testify in favor of the measure during a hearing spanning more than two hours.

The “just cause” bill, co-sponsored in the Maryland House of Delegates by Dels. Jheanelle Wilkins and Vaughn Stewart of Montgomery County, would authorize jurisdictions to set rules for landlords seeking to remove tenants after a lease expires. Landlords would have to choose from a list of reasons to not renew a lease approved in each jurisdiction, and then include that reason on the written notice provided to the tenant.

“Just causes” for eviction could include breaching the lease, removing the unit from the rental market or turning the property over to a relative to inhabit, among others.

If it became law, the bill could provide relief to tenants whose leases are terminated for retaliatory reasons and help keep rent costs contained, according to renters, advocates and Maryland policymakers who testified Tuesday afternoon. Wilkins, who has introduced the bill in the House for three consecutive sessions, noted that Washington, D.C., and at least 15 states have instituted “just cause” laws and pushed back against criticisms that the measure creates “life tenancy” for tenants.

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“There is nothing in this bill that prohibits a landlord from deciding not to renew a lease,” Wilkins said. “They still have the full right to do so. All we are asking is that they provide a reason for that.”

But those who oppose the bill said it would make the eviction process more arduous and expensive. Detractors also said Maryland already has laws to prevent unjust evictions and retaliation.

D. Robert Enten, an attorney and lobbyist who spoke on behalf of the Maryland Multi-Housing Association, which represents property owners, said year-to-year and month-to-month leases are designed to give both parties an out after the term expires. “Just cause” would “nullify” those contracts, he said.

“The characterization that I’ve heard, year after year, of what this bill does is that the landlord must give a reason,” Enten said. “This bill goes a thousand miles beyond that.”

State senators heard testimony for a companion bill on Friday.

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Baltimore City previously enacted a just-cause law in 2021, which Mayor Brandon Scott allowed to become law without his signature because it conflicted with state law. City Councilman Antonio Glover, the lead sponsor, said at the time that he sought to protect tenants from being removed from their homes during the national eviction moratorium, which sought to keep renters in their homes if they failed to make rent.

— Hallie Miller

GOP primary just got easier for Hogan

As soon as former Gov. Larry Hogan entered the race for the U.S. Senate, he immediately became the front-runner in the Republican primary — by a mile.

But he further cemented his status as the likely winner on Friday, when John Teichert folded his campaign and endorsed Hogan.

“As I’ve criss-crossed Maryland, I have been humbled, honored and blessed by your support, by our conversations, by your willingness to share your stories with me,” Teichert said in a video Friday. “But I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not yet my time.”

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Teichert said in the video that Maryland and the nation “desperately” need Hogan’s “proven style of collaborative leadership.”

Hogan reposted the video on social media, saying: “I am truly humbled to have his support, and I look forward to working alongside him to unite our party on the road to victory in November.”

The video statement represents a change of position for Teichert, who initially welcomed Hogan as a competitor on the campaign trail.

“Marylanders deserve to have a choice and I welcome anyone to the race who wants to offer them one,” Teichert said in a statement on Feb. 9, the day Hogan launched his campaign.

Teichert is a retired Air Force pilot and brigadier general who previously served as assistant deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs.

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As of the end of 2023, Teichert had about $221,000 in his campaign account, according to his campaign finance filing. Since launching his campaign last fall, Teichert had put together a campaign staff and lined up support from coalitions of veterans, law enforcement officers, faith leaders and parents.

The remaining candidates in the Republican primary are Moe H. Barakat of Montgomery County, Chris Chafee of Calvert County, Robin Ficker of Montgomery County, Lorie R. Friend of Garrett County, John A. Myrick of Prince George’s County and Laban Y. Seyoum of Prince George’s County.

— Pamela Wood