Baltimore County Council urged to reject rental-registry bill

November 14, 2001|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Calling a proposed rental property registry bill unconstitutional and discriminatory, landlords and renters lobbied the Baltimore County Council yesterday to reject the measure.

Supporters also crowded the council's work session yesterday, arguing that the bill would provide the county with important tools to prevent the decline of neighborhoods by allowing inspections every two years during license renewals and requiring landlords to designate a local agent.

Rental registration has been a top priority for community activists for years. But previous bills have failed amid complaints that they placed undue burdens on property owners.

The Baltimore County bill would require landlords of buildings with six or fewer units to seek licenses for their property and allow an inspection during the application process.

Once again, it appears the sponsors, Councilmen Vincent J. Gardina, John A. Olszewski Sr. and Wayne M. Skinner, might have a hard time getting the fourth vote they need without major amendments. Other council members indicated yesterday that they aren't sure the bill is the best way to accomplish the sponsors' two main goals: compiling a list of rental properties in the county and forcing problem landlords to comply with zoning and safety codes.

Opponents said the only people who would register their properties are those who obey the laws. The county will be too busy registering them to go after the problem landlords, said Kathy Howard, legislative chairwoman of the Maryland Multifamily Association.

She and others estimated the county could see 11,000 applications on the first day.

Arnold Jablon, director of the Department of Permits and Development Management, said that he could handle licensing and inspections with existing staff as long as most landlords did not register their properties. He warned that his office would be overwhelmed if there were widespread compliance or if he were required to make inspections within a short period of time.

Supporters of the bill said that a few landlords cause most of the problems, and community associations will help identify them.

"While rental registration will not be the answer to all our issues, it will give our communities and code enforcement officers a tool to monitor these properties," said Whitney Dudley, president of the Burkleigh Square Community Association.

One of the complaints code-enforcement officers have had the hardest time dealing with is that landlords are renting single-family houses to more than two unrelated tenants, a violation of zoning regulations.

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