WASHINGTON — QUESTION:

A viewer from Maryland reached out after hearing that there's a program that would allow renters to not pay rent during the pandemic. Is that information accurate?

ANSWER:

There’s no Maryland or federal program that would allow renters to not pay rent, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Our Verify researchers also asked officials in D.C. and Virginia, who confirmed rent is still going to be due there too.

SOURCES:

Shareese DeLeaver Churchill – spokeswoman for Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

Attorney General Brian Frosh spokespeople

Owen McEvoy – Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development

HR 6515 "Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act of 2020" synopsis-"Emergency rent and Mortgage Cancellation Legislation"- sponsored by Rep. Ilhan Omar, 

Jeremy Slevin – Senior Communications Director/Strategist for Rep. Ilhan Omar

Erik Johnston – Director of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development

John Cohn – Legislative Director- District of Columbia Office of the Tenant Advocate/ "COVID-19 State of Emergency: Tenant Rights and Resources"

PROCESS:

There’s a lot of changes coming out as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.The Verify team is here to sort through rumors and hearsay, reporting just the facts.

A viewer from Frederick County, Maryland, asked: Is there a program to allow people to not pay rent during the pandemic? 

Our researchers contacted the offices of Governor Larry Hogan, Attorney General Brian Frosh, and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

They all pointed us to Hogan's executive order signed on April 3, which prevents renters suffering "substantial loss of income" because of the virus from being evicted.

Towards the end of the executive order it reads, “...no provision of this order shall be construed as relieving any person or entity of any obligation to make payments.”

"We do not have a program that allows renters to skip rent," Owen McEvoy, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, said.

Next, our researchers looked to see whether the federal government passed anything like this.

Representative Ilhan Omar (MN-5) introduced a bill on April 17 that would prohibit rent and mortgage payments. Instead, landlords and mortgage holders would apply to get reimbursed from the federal government.

The bill stipulates that it would work retroactively, and that anyone who paid April rent would be eligible for a refund.

A spokesperson for Omar’s team, told our researchers that landlords would not be able to "double-dip" by collecting both rent from a tenant and a check from the government.

However, this bill has not been approved nor signed into law.

So we can verify: At this point, there’s no Maryland or federal program that would allow renters to not pay rent.

We also checked in with officials in Virginia and D.C., who confirmed rent is still going to be due there, too.

The District's Office of of the Tenant Advocate published a list of resources for renters and home owners on their site which says, "...the laws governing tenant’s duty to pay rent, other than rent increases, have not changed...the tenant is still obligated to pay rent in the amount charged just prior to the start of the emergency."

During Mayor Muriel Bowser's daily briefing on April 29, she reminded renters in the District to pay on time.

Mayor Bowser encourages DC tenants to stay current on rent payments.
Mayor Bowser encourages DC tenants to stay current on rent payments, during a press briefing on April, 29.
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"We know in just two days it will be May 1, where the rents due, mortgages are due, and people, of course, are rightly concerned about all of those things," Bowser said Wednesday. "We know that some benefits have begun to flow...so that on May 1 rent continues to be due, but we want to remind everybody that no one can be evicted or late fees charged during this time."

For those in search of tenant resources in the DMV:

VIRGINIA:

COVID-19 DHCD Resources and Funding

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:

COVID-19 State of Emergency: Tenant Rights and Resources

MARYLAND:

Guidance for Rental Tenants Affected by COVID-19

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