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A Brief History of Baltimore County Rental Inspections

As of 2009 Baltimore County landlords are required to obtain a Baltimore County Rental License.

Landlords who fail to register with the county could face fines of $1,000 per day.

In 2010, the regulations added carbon monoxide detectors the requirements.

Part of the application process is to have an inspection performed by a state-licensed home inspector (of which I am one).  The inspector must complete a Rental Inspection Sheet for each unit you intend to rent (up to six units).

“All buildings or a portion of a building that contain one to six dwelling units intended or designated as rental units must register and be licensed with Baltimore County on or before January 1, 2009.” (Baltimore County Bill 87-07)

But how did this law come into being?

Baltimore County lawmakers began a test version of the rental registration program in 13 communities in 2001.  A 2006 audit of the program revealed the program had failed.

County administrators said they lacked the staff to perform inspections under the pilot program. The new measure called for a privatized inspection process, requiring landlords to pay for their own inspections, choosing from a list of approved contractors. Inspectors were to look for, among other items, hardwired smoke detectors, hot water, plumbing and a working furnace.

The purpose of the program was to crack down on absentee landlords who allow their properties to deteriorate or cram too many tenants into one unit. 

The bill sponsors at the time argued that it wasn’t just dealing with problem property owners, but also with the public safety of the tenants. 

In fact the bill was fueled by community leaders who complained that rental houses invite noise, trash and vandalism into otherwise quiet neighborhoods.

A particular proponent was the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, which pointed to 35 Victorian houses in Towson Manor, once rented to students but at that time vacant.

They said the conditions were deplorable, and the landlords had taken advantage of students desperate for off-campus housing.

This explain why bill targeted boarding houses and single-family houses converted into multiple rental units, but excluded apartment buildings (defined as more than six units).

Industry associations fought the proposal, claiming the program drive up costs, thus increasing rent, and that the program unfairly burdened responsible landlords who maintain their houses.

But they lost, and the program was approved to go county-wide in 2007.

For more information please visit the Baltimore County Rental Registration homepage:

http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/agencies/permits/rentalregistration/

Or if you’re interested in codes (and who isn’t?) here are the laws and codes for landlords and tenants in Baltimore County:

http://www.peoples-law.org/special-landlord-tenant-laws-baltimore-county

Next up:  A brief history of lead inspections in Baltimore County.