A City Council bill that would end the long-standing practice of dumping evicted tenants' belongings onto the street drew dozens to a hearing yesterday as council members listened to proposed amendments meant to appease landlords while maintaining protections for tenants.
Under the bill, landlords would be responsible for disposing of the belongings of their tenants, a cost now absorbed by the city.
Among the changes discussed yesterday was one that would eliminate a proposed requirement that landlords place their tenants' belongings in storage for up to three days. Instead, tenants would be given more advance notice of the eviction -- 14 days instead of five days. Landlord and tenant proponents packed the Housing, Health and Human Services Subcommittee meeting, voicing support and opposition to a practice city officials and groups have unsuccessfully tried to end for more than a decade.
Some landlords raised objections to having to pay tipping fees at the city landfill, saying that at the very least the city should waive such fees. Sponsored by Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr., who chairs the subcommittee, the bill would ban the practice of leaving belongings -- such as beds and couches -- on the street and would require landlords to pay for the disposal of such "eviction chattel."
The city pays on average more than $800,000 a year in collection and disposal costs of evictions.
A work group headed by City Solicitor George Nilson and consisting of landlord and tenant groups has been meeting for months, crafting compromises on every aspect of the bill. The group will meet again Tuesday to discuss further changes to the bill before it's voted upon in subcommittee.
Nilson told the subcommittee yesterday that the landlords had "a lot of trouble" with the concept of paying for the storage of tenants' belongings for three days. "It had to do generally with security issues and insurance issues," he said.
To that end, the group agreed instead on extending the period of notice from five days to 14 days.
Notice could be extended by another two weeks if the tenant can prove he or she did not receive the notice. Nilson said the two sides were still working on a compromise on that provision.
The major coalition groups that have been working on the bill expressed support yesterday for the latest version, though some noted that they were not pleased with all the changes.
Alfred Singer, a board member of the Property Owners Association of Greater Baltimore Inc., said that while he supported the "ultimate fairness of giving notice" with an exact time and date, he believes city officials need to contemplate waiving the tipping fees at the city landfill.
"In this bill it's important to recognize that the landlord industry is accepting the city's cost of $809,000 for the collection and removal of chattel from the properties to the landfill," he said. "So that's a substantial amount."
"We think waiving the tipping fees, given the fact that we're absorbing $809,000 worth of transportation costs, makes sense," he added.
In 2006, it cost the city $40.85 per ton to dump at landfills, according to a public works official.
Dan Pontious, acting executive director for the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, said his group was against the elimination of the three-day storage period.
"More than 20 states have a storage period after the eviction," said Pontious.