Housing authority approves shorter grace time for late rents ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY -- Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

February 11, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Carol Brown, who scrimps to pay her rent and feed her children when her paycheck is late, was one of hundreds of residents of Annapolis' public housing communities frightened by a plan to shorten the grace period for late rents.

Yesterday, the city housing authority bowed to their concerns and compromised. It cut the grace period from seven days to six days, instead of to five.

Officials said they wanted to roll back the grace period because "chronically late" tenants cost the authority more than $156,000 last year.

The Annapolis Housing Authority Commissioners approved several other lease changes that will be published in a newsletter distributed to residents of the city's 1,104 public housing units before the new leases take effect in March.

The commissioners agreed to increase the security deposits from $30 to a minimum of $50 and a maximum of $200, depending on income. Current residents will only have to put up the minimum deposit, and they will be given up to a year to pay the additional money.

Also, the five commissioners decided not to include a clause in the lease advising residents of their rights if they face a criminal eviction.

Both proposals were protested by tenants of Annapolis' 10 public housing communities. More than 450 signed petitions opposing the lease changes, and 75 showed up for a hearing Tuesday night to voice their concerns.

The new lease allows the authority to evict immediately all tenants from an apartment if one tenant is arrested on drug charges. Housing officials said the step is needed to avoid the drawn-out process in which tenants dispute evictions, while the agency cannot collect rent.

Mary Agnes Sheehan, an attorney with the Annapolis Legal Aid Bureau, tried to make the lease changes more lenient.

Ms. Sheehan, who was hired by the Robinwood Tenant Council, argued that the agency was being too strict in its new leases. She urged the commissioners to adopt a clause saying the agency has the "discretion" to allow residents to remain if just one family member is arrested.

"I think it's important that it's in the lease so tenants know about the procedures," she said.

But the commissioners were advised by Steven P. Resnick, the authority's lawyer, that the clause would create problems.

Ms. Sheehan also argued for keeping a seven-day grace period for late rents. Mrs. Brown, a mother of two who lives in Robinwood, told the commissioners yesterday that she has needed the grace period because her paycheck sometimes comes several days late.

Roger W. "Pip" Moyer, deputy director of the authority, said he sympathized with the residents on most issues, but spoke eloquently of the need for stricter rules to combat drug use.

"The stronger the better," he said. "We need every tool to fight this terrible thing. Drugs are totally destroying our communities."

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