Halloween is almost here! As you are carving a pumpkin, making your costume or buying candy for trick-or-treaters, you may be wondering what will be the scariest thing you will see on October 31.
But the scariest thing may be what happens when Bill 55-19 goes into effect on October 27. It is the county executive’s new Fair Housing Act, the most restrictive fair housing law in the state.
Even before this law, housing discrimination has been illegal in Anne Arundel County for decades. Federal law already prohibited housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability.
State law keeps those same prohibitions and adds prohibitions on discrimination because of marital status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Anne Arundel County now adds even more, prohibiting discrimination for age, ancestry, citizenship, creed, gender expression, occupation and source of income. These rules apply to all landlords, whether you rent a room in your house or own an apartment complex. I proposed 16 amendments to fix some of the key issues with this new law, 15 of which were defeated on a party-line vote, including:
In another bill (Bill 57-19), the council created a new housing commission to investigate and penalize occurrences of housing discrimination. Originally, the county executive wanted fines of $21,000 for a first offense, $52,000 for a second offense and $105,000 for a third (or more) offense. I felt these fines were exorbitant and not appropriately scaled given the offense. A compromise amendment I proposed to lower the fine to $10,000 for each violation was the only amendment I proposed that the council passed.
The confusion and uncertainty this law creates for landlords and renters alike may be the scariest thing you see this year. Happy Halloween!