The Howard County Council postponed until Sept. 21 its final action on a bill to provide protections for low-income, elderly and handicapped persons when their rental apartments are converted to condominiums.

The bill expands protections under Maryland law that requires converters to give low-income elderly and handicapped persons an option to continue renting for three years on up to 20 percent of the apartments in the conversion project.

The proposed county legislation, mainly affecting tenants in Columbia, Md., as now written would require lifelong tenancies for lower-income elderly and handicapped and three-year leases for other lower-income families and higher-income elderly and handicapped, on up to 20 percent of the apartments.

Action was postponed from Tuesday's council meeting because two substantive amendments were proposed that the council decided required another public hearing, said Ruth Keeton, one of the council members sponsoring the bill. One amendment would tie annual rent increases to the inflation rate as measured by the consumer price index, or on subsidized housing to whatever the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allows. The other would revise the definition of a handicapped person.

The council will have a hearing on the amendments Sept. 21 and then plans to vote on the bill and amendments to it later that night.

Other proposals would eliminate lifetime tenancies and instead require three-year or six-year leases for the lower-income elderly and handicapped.

Developers in the county have opposed the legislation. David Adler, president of Costain Maryland, which is converting the Timberneck-Treover project in Columbia, said the measure puts the burden of low-income and elderly housing entirely on converters, while the problem is a countywide one.

Developers have suggested that the county take a portion of increased tax revenues resulting from conversions of properties and using this to finance housing assistance for families needing help.