County eviction bill is altered to loosen landlord's responsibility for property

August 30, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

After meeting with landlords, Baltimore County officials have decided that neither the landlords nor the county should have to store an evicted person's property.

Patrick Roddy, a lobbyist for County Executive Roger B. Hayden's administration, said legislation making landlords responsible for disposing of property left after evictions likely will be introduced in the County Council Oct. 4.

The bill no longer contains a proposal to have landlords store an evicted person's property for 15 days, but will require them to put the belongings "in a place designated" on their private property, which can be in an unsecured area.

The bill's purpose is to get the property off public streets, where it is now deposited, and eliminate the public expense of having county highway crews pick up the stuff after 48 hours and haul it to the dump.

County administrative officer Merreen E. Kelly and Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th, said the 15 landlords and lawyers who attended the meeting on Friday objected to the 15-day storage requirement because of the cost and added aggravation of keeping track of property.

Mr. Kelly said he was persuaded that "these people have received 60 days' notice" before an eviction occurs, and thus have time to move any property they want to save.

"Most of the stuff put out is of very little value," he said.

During the 1993 fiscal year which ended June 30, there were 3,322 evictions in Baltimore County. Most of the people removed their belongings before being evicted. The county now makes 20 to 30 pickups per month of belongings left after evictions.

Mr. Roddy said he will write a new draft of the bill and circulate it among the landlords again for comment before it is introduced. When asked if any advocates for the poor and homeless have been consulted, he replied, "not yet." He also said landlords have sought him out to talk about the problem, but advocates for the poor have not.

Robert Gajdys, director of Community Assistance Network, the county's poverty agency, said he is frustrated that advocates for the poor have been excluded from discussions about the bill.

The typical evicted family is a "female head of household with three kids," he said. "We need to find a way to protect their legal rights to their property."

He said his agency often helps evicted people left homeless enter county shelters and finds them apartments. Because some of these people have lost all their furniture and appliances in evictions, his agency also gives out donated furniture. Letting people keep their furnishings until they have a new place would lighten the agency's burden tremendously, he said.

"I disagree with the idea that just because it's property on the street it's abandoned," he said, adding that he views taking such property as "theft." County police don't arrest scavengers who take property from evictions because it is considered abandoned property, a view backed by Howard Merker, deputy county state's attorney.

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