Originally created to provide a nationwide model of justice, Baltimore’s housing court today serves as little more than a state-run rent collection agency, financed by taxpayers and the beleaguered renters themselves who pay court fees for each judgment ruled against them.
Rachel M. Cohen
September 14, 2015
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Tags: Housing: Landlord-Tenant
Organizations mentioned/involved: Public Justice Center (PJC)
Each year, Baltimore landlords file roughly 150,000 cases in rent court, which is housed in the District Court of Maryland. The city has 125,000 occupied rental units. Many tenants, like Jennings, are taken multiple times per year.
Despite its undeniable public impact, rent court remains one of city’s least transparent institutions. Any public records are hard to come by and in an era of metrics and open data, analysis of courtroom verdicts appears to be nonexistent.
“People know about it, but there’s no interest to understand why this keeps happening year after year,” says Zafar Shah, an attorney with the Baltimore-based Public Justice Center. “The whole system just does not function as it should.”