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Council to consider changes in rental registration program

May 10, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday will consider a proposal to reduce the cost of a planned rental registration program from $45 per unit annually to $39 per unit.

City officials said that and other proposed changes are being made to address concerns raised by the Landlords and Property Owners Association of Washington County, which says the program unfairly punishes all landlords for the actions of a few.

In October, the association launched an effort to take to referendum the ordinance but fell 39 signatures short.

In December, the association filed a petition for judicial review that asks the court to determine whether the number of signatures counted was correct.

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City and association officials have been meeting in recent months to talk about the association's objections to the program, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said.

There is a general agreement between the two bodies that the association will drop its legal action if the city adopts the changes, Zimmerman said. The changes will not prevent the city from reaching its goal of improving the quality of rental housing, he said.

The ordinance is scheduled to take effect in June.

Under the program as adopted by the city in October, all rental properties will be inspected after a rental license application is submitted. Properties will be inspected every three years or sooner when there is a change in occupancy.

Under the proposed changes going before the council Tuesday, there would be inspections at tenant turnover but not more frequently than every three years. In addition, the ordinance would expire after five years if no action is taken to continue it.

There are an estimated 9,214 rental units in the city, occupied by an estimated 20,000 people, city officials said.

The city has a population of 36,687, according to the 2000 census.

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