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County hopes to strengthen Livability Code

March 25, 2006|By TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Washington County hopes to strengthen a code that primarily is intended to protect tenants from living in dirty or unsafe conditions, Permits and Inspections Director Daniel DiVito said.

DiVito said in a phone interview Thursday the proposed changes to the Washington County Livability Code more clearly outline the responsibility of residential property owners and tenants in keeping their living spaces clean and free from major structural damage or other dangers.

"That's something that was somewhat lacking in the old ordinance," DiVito said.

The current code has not been updated since 1988.

DiVito said a code officer would check on properties if the county receives a complaint. He said county employees would not drive around looking for infractions.

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The code states its purpose is to establish minimum maintenance standards for "safe and sanitary maintenance of residential structures and premises" and requirements for plumbing, lighting, ventilation and heating.

For example, the code states property owners are required to keep the exterior and interior of structures in good shape "so that it does not pose a threat to the health, safety, or welfare of the occupants."

"Each exterior wall shall be free of holes, breaks, loose or rotting boards or timbers, and any other conditions that might admit rain or dampness to the interior portions or the walls or to the occupied areas of the structure," the code states.

"The interior of a structure shall be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition free from any accumulation of rubbish or garbage," according to the code.

The code also outlines minimum fire safety requirements, such as keeping fire escapes in safe working condition and providing unobstructed exits.

Violators of the code could receive a $500 fine for each day the violation exists and/or spend up to 90 days in jail, according to the code.

The Washington County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the code Tuesday at 10:15 a.m. at the County Administration Building at 100 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown.

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