A Landlord's Responsibility ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

August 16, 1993

The owner of the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park in Harmans seems to forget he's the boss.

Symcha Shpak says the county has no legal right to deny him a license for the park because it's not his fault that it fails to meet health code violations. He says it's the tenants' fault. He says they, not Mr. Shpak, are responsible for keeping up their own units and that he's powerless to make them repair unsafe decks, secure gas tanks, clean up animal refuse, cut the grass, etc.

The county Board of Appeals has yet to rule on this matter, but it seems clear to us that Mr. Shpak and his lawyer are way off base.

Most people understand that if they apply for a license to do anything they bear responsibility for the licensed activity. Mr. Shpak wants a license to run a mobile home park. Therefore, he is responsible for making sure that the park complies with county codes. It's true, the tenants own their own mobile homes. But even if park owners cannot make certain repairs themselves, they have the authority to make sure the tenants do.

Mobile home park owners are landlords. Landlords have the right to set conditions in lease agree ments. They can stipulate that tenants aren't allowed to store trash under their trailers, that the grass should be mowed regularly, that homes must be kept up. If a tenant refuses to comply, the landlord can evict him -- just as the owner of any rental home or apartment can evict someone who violates the terms of the lease.

The county agreed last fall to grant Mr. Shpak a license if he started evicting violators. He never did. During his appeals hearing, he and his attorney have had the gall to try to make the county look as if it wants to put people out on the street by asking for action against those who refuse to take care of their homes. They have also played on legitimate fears about where the rest of Ridgewood's 150 families will go if the county shuts it down -- a question the county has yet to resolve and which it must resolve if it wins this appeals procedure.

But the county's dilemma regarding the residents has nothing to do with whether the board should award Mr. Shpak a license.

Licenses go hand in hand with responsibility. Any applicant who doesn't understand that shouldn't have one.

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