Some rental owners in city may face charges

August 29, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

The city of Hagerstown, in letters to be mailed out today, threatens to file criminal charges against about 400 rental property owners who did not apply for rental licenses by the Aug. 20 deadline, city officials said Thursday.

The city has not received registration applications for about 500 of the 3,200 rental units in the city, Program Manager Amanda Miller said Thursday.

Some property owners own more than one rental unit.

The city by mid-September will start filing criminal misdemeanor charges of noncompliance against property owners who have not registered, City Engineer Rodney Tissue said.


The city's letter notes that operating rental property without a license is a misdemeanor and may carry up to a $1,000 fine per unit and/or 90 days in jail, Miller said.

The program began on June 20 and since then, all but about 13 percent of the rental property owners in the city have submitted registration applications and paid the annual fee of $39 per unit, city officials said.

For property owners to receive the required registration license, their properties must pass an exterior inspection. Owners are sent a copy of the inspection results along with a license.

About 70 percent of the time, the license's approval is conditional on the landlord making required improvements, Miller said. The landlord usually has about one month to make improvements, but the time period varies based on the type of violation.

The two most common violations are chipping or peeling paint and issues such as furniture in the backyard, Miller said.

The city on Aug. 20 began conducting internal inspections of rental units when there is tenant turnover, she said.

The program was revised from an earlier proposal after objections were raised by the Landlords and Property Owners Association of Washington County, city and association officials said. The cost of the annual license was reduced from $45 per unit to $39 per unit in response to objections.

Landlords and Property Owners Association President Allan Johnson and some rental property owners previously said they do not think the program is fair because it blames all property owners for the misdeeds of a few.

Johnson could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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