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Council to mull change to rental licensing program

October 07, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council Tuesday is scheduled to consider changing the proposed rental registration license program to reduce the frequency of inspections.

Under the original proposal, all city rental units would be inspected annually. Currently, rental properties are only inspected in response to complaints, city officials have said.

Members of the Landlords and Property Owners Association of Washington County have urged their tenants to protest the proposal, which they said is unfair because it punishes all property owners for the misdeeds of a few.

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At its Sept. 24 meeting, the Hagerstown City Council voted 4-1 to introduce an ordinance creating the controversial rental registration program designed to improve rental housing in the city. Councilman Lewis C. Metzner voted against introducing the ordinance.

Under that version of the program, properties would be inspected after a license application is submitted and every 24 months afterward.

A staff report for Tuesday's work session asks the council if it is interested in having the properties inspected every 36 months or when there is a change in occupancy, whichever occurs first.

Under all versions of the proposal, property owners would pay an annual fee of $45 per rental unit to pay for more frequent inspections of properties.

City officials said the rental licensing fee would pay the salaries for six new inspectors and an administrative assistant. The city has four inspectors.

Alan Johnson, president of the association, said Friday he prefers the new proposal to the earlier versions.

"It sounds like they are coming around to being more reasonable about things," he said.

Logistically, it would be easier for inspections to occur when there is a change in occupancy because then the tenants would not need to be notified about when the examination of the property will occur, he said.

Tuesday's work session is at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall.

There are an estimated 9,214 rental units in the city, city officials say.

About 20,000 people in Hagerstown live in rental housing, city officials said. The city has a population of 36,687, according to the 2000 census.

The ordinance exempts the 1,180 rental units owned by the Hagerstown Housing Authority, which are inspected twice a year by the authority.

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