Five owners of city property could face criminal charges

According to papers filed in District Court, the City of Hagerstown alleges that the five property owners have failed to registe

According to papers filed in District Court, the City of Hagerstown alleges that the five property owners have failed to registe

December 03, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

The City of Hagerstown submitted paperwork in Washington County District Court Tuesday to file misdemeanor criminal charges against five property owners who it alleges have failed to register in the city's rental registration program, Program Manager Amanda Miller told the Hagerstown City Council.

The five property owners' names were displayed on a screen as part of a presentation to the council during Tuesday's work session.

The city submitted to District Court applications for statements of charges, alleging that the property owners were in violation of the city's rental code.


A District Court commissioner said he would determine whether there is enough probable cause to file charges.

The rental registration program, which began on June 20, requires rental property owners in the city to submit registration applications and pay an annual fee of $39 per unit.

Operating rental property without a license is a misdemeanor and carries a penalty of a fine of up to $1,000 per unit and/or six months in jail, Miller said.

As of this week, about 65 property owners had failed to comply with the ordinance, Miller said. The 65 property owners own about 200 rental units in the city, she said.

At the request of the Washington County State's Attorney's Office - which would prosecute the cases - the city is sending 10 cases at a time for prosecution. A random number table was used to determine the first 10.

The city plans to initiate proceedings against up to 10 landlords per month, Miller said.

On Nov. 5, the first 10 were served with a notice of violation and given 20 days to file an appeal or comply with the ordinance.

Of those 10, five subsequently registered for the program.

The five property owners against whom the city has submitted paperwork to file charges are:

  • William W. Smith IV, for two units he owns at 12 East Ave. He registered for one unit but has three there, the city alleges.

  • Douglas Diehl, for one unit at 338 S. Potomac St., one unit at 616 George St. and one unit at 618 George St.

  • J. Michael Vaia and Joyce Vaia, who the city plans to charge separately for two units they own at 230 N. Potomac St.

  • Craig Kline, for one unit he owns at 117 Randolph Ave.

Diehl, reached Tuesday night by phone, said he registered his properties.

Joyce Vaia said she thought her husband took care of the registration.

"We certainly plan to be compliant with it. It just seems like another legal loophole to jump through," she said.

Smith did not return a phone call seeking comment and a telephone number for Kline could not be found.

The city will not comment on the specific people against whom the paperwork was filed, John Lestitian, chief of code compliance, said Tuesday.

On Aug. 29, the city sent letters to 400 delinquent owners telling them charges would be filed against them because they did not meet the Aug. 20 deadline.

In response to the letter, a number of property owners registered their properties.

Staff writer Laura Ernde contributed to this story.

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