Mandatory Air Conditioning in June/COVID-19 Updates: DHCA requirements, rental assistance & more

Posted By: Nicola Y. Whiteman, Esq. Headlines ,

REMINDER: JUNE 1 EFFECTIVE DATE FOR MANDATORY AIR CONDITIONING LAW
On March 2, the Montgomery County Council approved Bill 24-19 - Landlord-Tenant Relations - Obligations of Landlord - Air Conditioning. The new law requires housing providers to provide and maintain air conditioning during certain months and will take effect on June 1, 2020. To recap, key provisions in the new law are noted below. 

  • Applicable dates: June 1- September 30
  • Minimum temperature: 80 degrees
  • Housing provider responsibility/Method of measuring cool temperature: 
    • Housing provider controls thermostat: Maintain a temperature of no more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit (80° F.) in each habitable space at 3 feet above floor level; and
    • Resident controls thermostat: Housing provider must provide an air conditioning system capable of maintaining a temperature of no more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit (80° F.) in each habitable space at a distance of 3 feet above floor level.
  • Time for repairs: Housing providers’ obligation applies except when required for reasonable maintenance and repairs. The law directs DHCA to issue implementing regulations including regulations to define reasonable maintenance and repair. Additionally, DHCA indicated it will request an alternative plan when no a/c is being provided because of the scope of repairs. Status: AOBA will update the membership once DHCA publishes implementing regulations.
  • Financing for housing providers: The Executive must, subject to appropriations, explore options to offer low-interest financing to housing providers who need to upgrade their electrical systems to comply with the law. Status: As the law was passed before the start of the COVID-19 public health emergency, AOBA is uncertain about the future of available funding in the current or future budgets. Staff will provide an update once available.
  • Housing provider extension requests: Housing providers can apply to the DHCA director for an extension of up to six months to comply with the new law if the director finds that: (1) a housing provider needs to make electrical upgrades to comply; and (2) making the upgrades would cause a financial hardship. Status: AOBA is awaiting information from DHCA on the form for filing such requests.
  • Miscellaneous: 
    • One-year delayed implementation for properties slated for development: Housing providers can request delayed compliance for any property that is the subject of a pending application for a necessary approval for development before the Planning Board, Board of Appeals, or Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings. Note: The period of delayed implementation for a property may not exceed the sooner of the completion of the development or 24 months.
    • Miscellaneous: Can’t conflict with fire safety requirements. 

DHCA COVID-19 RESPONSE - HOUSING PROVIDER REQUIREMENTS
Housing Provider Cleaning and Posting Requirements
On April 10, the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) sent an email to all licensed multifamily properties in which it noted applicable cleaning standards and posting requirements for housing providers. Per DHCA, these actions reflect the agency’s efforts to support property managers with specific standards for common area maintenance, and tools for communicating with residents on personal cleaning and social distancing.

Applicable cleaning standards: DHCA requires all multifamily buildings to use CDC guidelines to clean common areas at least daily; recommends more often in high-traffic areas. 

Posting requirementHousing providers must also post in common areas the CDC provided Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility flyer and the County provided Guidance for Multifamily Building Residents  Amharic - Chinese (simplified) - English - French - Spanish - Vietnamese.

COVID-19 Rental Relief Act – Updated required tenants’ rights form
On April 24, DHCA sent an email to all licensed rental properties to alert them to the COVID-19 Rental Relief Act.  New tenant poster: The communication added a new link to the Tenants’ Rights Poster which has added language to explain the 2.6% maximum rent increase implementation. DHCA required document:  Tenants’ Rights Evictions Suspended.

DHCA reinforces obligation to pay rent: Notably, the flyer helps to explain that the eviction suspension does not affect the responsibility of tenants to pay rent.

DHCA outreach to housing providers: To help property management companies in supporting residents and reducing the risks in their communities, code inspectors are calling property management companies asking if they have questions about the requirements and how the County can support their efforts. In the event of questions or complaints from residents concerning the cleaning or practices in multifamily buildings, the code inspectors will work to reach property management staff and discuss their practices and work to help residents and management in understanding the guidelines, and determining if improvements are recommended or needed.  

DHCA Updates: The agency continues to update its website with answers to frequently asked questions and additional summaries of the implications of the Act for residents and housing providers. Please continue to visit the DHCA website for updates.
 

RECAP - DOCUMENTS FOR POSTING IN MULTIFAMILY BUILDINGS 

Required Documents for Posting in Multifamily Buildings

Optional Documents for posting in multifamily buildings


UPDATE ON AVAILABLE COVID-19 RELIEF FOR COUNTY RESIDENTS
Montgomery County continues to increase available funding for programs that support residents impacted by COVID-19. Notably, the County continues to increase funding for critically important rental assistance. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is the agency charged with administering most of the County’s rental assistance programs. The following is a summary of funding allocations to date and available application information. AOBA will continue to update this list as additional information is made available. Members can also visit AOBA’s website for COVID-19 related updates. 
 
$5 million to increase direct financial assistance to low-income County residents in response to the Covid-19 public health emergency. Notably, this County assistance is intended for residents who are not eligible for COVID-19 related state and federal assistance. The funding was recommended by the County Executive to the County’s ​Human Services Response and Community Assistance account to be used by DHHS to expand a program to provide direct financial assistance to County residents. STATUS: Program disbursements has begun. See below for detailed program and application information.
 

COVID-19: Emergency Assistance Relief Payment (EARP): Emergency financial assistance is available for Montgomery County residents through this new program. Key provisions are detailed below.

Eligibility: Families with incomes less than 50% of the federal poverty level* who are not eligible for Federal COVID-19 stimulus checks or State benefits will begin receiving a one-time emergency assistance check from the County. *Families with incomes less than 50% of the federal poverty level who are not eligible for Federal COVID-19 stimulus checks or State benefits will begin receiving a one-time emergency assistance check from the County.

Funding per household: Eligible families will receive $1,000 for a family with one child (plus $150 for each additional child up to a maximum of $1,450 per family) early next week.

Total available funding: Approximately $2.5 million will be distributed to residents by DHHS; an additional $2.5 million is intended for individuals and families served by nonprofit organizations in the community.

$6 million for DHHS safety net programs: Funding is being used to provide direct financial assistance to residents through DHHS and non-profit partner organizations. $1M will be used to support DHHS' safety net programs, including supporting the issue of food insecurity in the County. STATUS: Phase 1: 601 checks ranging from $500 for a single adult to $1,450 for a family were sent to existing Care for Kids clients on April 27. Phase 2:Non-profit providers and funding allocations are being determined. Phase 3: Everyone else eligible will be provided assistance. A Noncompetitive Contract Resolution will be forthcoming to award funds to the Healthcare Initiative Foundation and the Montgomery County Food Council to award food security grants to organizations. AOBA members: Some of your residents will receive assistance through these programs.

$2 million Council approved funding: Funds will be allocated to provide a short-term rental subsidy program to low- and moderate-income households in response to the current COVID-19 declared state of emergency in Maryland. STATUS: DHHS is preparing an FIS to accompany this legislation.

ADDITIONAL FUNDING UNDER CONSIDERATION
Federal funds to support rental assistance programs: The County is moving forward with a recommendation for use of its share of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) funding under the CARES Act. On May 4, the County published the required draft amendment to its HUD Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Action Plan. The proposal for the $2,955,000 in CARES Act funding includes $1,955,000 for short-term emergency rent payments on behalf of households who need emergency assistance due to being impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.  Assistance will include up to $500 per month per household for a maximum of three months. The remaining $1,000,000 would support small businesses with short-term working capital assistance to retain jobs. This will be reviewed by the Council, and DHCA is focused on implementing this relief as soon as possible.  The County Executive is also recommending ($1,438,797) for temporary shelter and rapid rehousing assistance to people experiencing homelessness because of the current public health emergency. The complete list of local allocation of CDBG funds can be viewed at CPD Program formula allocations and CARES Act Supplemental Funding for FY 2020.
 
ADDITIONAL COVID-19 RESOURCES FOR HOUSING PROVIDERS AND RESIDENTS

Housing Providers Residents