Demand justice for renters
JUFJ recently joined a new campaign for rent relief in Maryland. Here are the first steps you can take with us.
Every seventh year you shall practice release of debts. This shall be the nature of the release: every creditor shall release his authority over what he claims from his neighbor. He shall not force it from his neighbor or his brother, for God’s Shmita has been proclaimed…
– Deuteronomy 15:1-2
What is Shmita: Shmita means “release.” It is first referred to in Exodus and again in Leviticus in reference to the agricultural practice of leaving the land to lie fallow in the seventh year as a sabbath year. Unlike many mitzvot which are based on individual actions, shmita relies on both personal and communal participation.
During the shmita year, privately-owned property returns to public ownership and debts are nullified. In the lead up to a shmita year, we are all encouraged to lend sufficiently so that everyone’s needs are met. During this time of crisis, we must make sure everyone’s housing needs are met, and we must release people from unpayable debts that could leave them without a home.
JUFJ is joining with our partners at CASA, the Renters United Maryland coalition, tenant associations, and advocates across the state to call for relief for Maryland renters.
Rent Court was originally set up to protect tenants by enforcing health and sanitation standards in housing and assist landlords in collecting unpaid rent. But the reality is that a handful of overworked, overwhelmed judges work swiftly to move cases (as many as 1,000 per day) along, rather than hear the tenants’ concerns.
Many low-income renters cannot access a lawyer, and so most cases are heard in their landlord’s favor. This leads to nearly 7,000 evictions a year, most of them preventable, and makes it easy for landlords to avoid adhering to housing standards. Black women are overwhelmingly impacted by this broken system.
Jews United for Justice is part of two renters’ rights coalitions. For more information about our work with these coalitions, contact Rianna.
Baltimore Renters United (BRU) is a coalition of advocacy and membership groups fighting for the rights of renters in Baltimore City. BRU members include JUFJ, The Public Justice Center, Communities United, Right To Housing Alliance, Baltimore DSA, and the Homeless Persons Representation Project.
BRU hosts the Baltimore City Housing Court Watch blog, bmorerentersunited.org, which shines a light on the conditions and challenges renters face in Baltimore City’s Circuit Court. We train members to observe and write about housing court for the blog, and have been active in legislative efforts to have all rental units inspected and licensed.
Renters United Maryland (RUM) is a coalition of renters’ rights groups working primarily at the state level. Members include JUFJ, The Public Justice Center, Homeless Persons Representation Project, Montgomery County Renters Alliance, Maryland Legal Aid, Public Policy Partners, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Maryland Chapter of the NAACP.
RUM has been working on statewide legislation to ensure safe housing and support renters rights.
Want to get more involved in this campaign? Contact an organizer.
June 4 | 3:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Our Jewish traditions and texts teach us that everyone deserves a stable home, and JUFJ is fighting for the right to housing in Montgomery County. Join us and our partners in the HOME Act Coalition for a picnic to celebrate our community and take action for renter protections!
June 5 | 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Our Jewish traditions and texts teach us that everyone deserves a stable home, and JUFJ is fighting for the right to housing in Montgomery County! Join us for a virtual house party to build community and power and take action to keep all of our neighbors housed.
June 5 | 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Join JUFJers from across Baltimore to discuss our ongoing issue campaign work. We will share updates for all the local campaigns and brainstorm on how to move the work forward.
June 13 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Join us for our next Montgomery County Housing Team meeting to get updates about the fight for permanent rent stabilization and take action together.