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Council endorses habitual housing offenders law

November 23, 2001

Council endorses habitual housing offenders law



Hagerstown's Mayor and City Council on Tuesday unanimously endorsed a law that will make jail time a possibility for some repeat offenders of the city property maintenance code.

A final council vote on the law is expected Dec. 18.

Under the law, someone convicted in court of violating the city property maintenance code three times within 24 months would be labeled a habitual offender for the next year. If during that year the habitual offender violated the property maintenance code again, he or she could face a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 90 days in jail.

Violations of the city property maintenance code now carry fines of up to $1,000, said City Chief Code Enforcement Officer John Lestitian.

Lestitian said the proposed habitual offender law would apply only to court convictions of code violations. He said if the city already had such a law, about five property owners would be considered habitual offenders.

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Lestitian has said he recommended the new law because it will help him deal with blighted properties that typically are owned by either absentee landlords or "system manipulators."

Some property owners the city takes to court over code violations will fix the problem just before their court date. Those people may still be convicted but typically do not get big fines, Lestitian said.

- Dan Kulin

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