Incidents of disorderly conduct around Towson have prompted one Baltimore County Council member to propose a crackdown on landlords who allow tenants to cause a "public nuisance."
Some community leaders say measures proposed by 5th District County Council member Vince Gardina are a good start in addressing conduct issues, but don't go far enough because they would only affect properties listed under the county's rental registration law — and wouldn't include apartment complexes.
Gardina said he decided to propose tougher public nuisance laws after hearing about drunken students wandering through neighborhoods near Towson University during its annual Tigerfest celebration April 24.
"Landlords aren't watching their tenants like they're supposed to," he said.
Officials at Towson University did not return a call seeking comment.
Current county nuisance laws are limited mostly to issues such as domestic noise. Gardina's bill focuses on problems arising from complaints about the occupants of rental housing.
Under a bill being proposed at the County Council, complaints of disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace — as well as violations of animal control laws and drug or alcohol violations — would all qualify as public nuisances.
Owner of rental properties would receive a written warning from the county after two such complaints regarding tenants in their properties.
If a third complaint occurs within six months of the warning, the county could seek to have the rental registration suspended or revoked, or reject an application for renewal of the license.
Gardina said he plans to also submit an amendment that would allow the county to suspend rental licenses for up to one year.
The bill is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday and could go to a vote Aug. 2.
Under the proposal, property owners would be able to protect their licenses if they show they took steps to correct nuisance issues, were not the owner of the property when it occurred or didn't know the violations had occurred but took steps to fix the problem once they were notified by the county.
Trish Mayhugh, president of the Riderwood Hills Community Association, applauded the proposal as a starting point — but said the bill could result in unruly students being funneled into area apartment complexes.
Riderwood Hills is home to several apartment complexes, including two housing some students who attend Towson University and other area colleges — the Colony and the Kenilworth at Charles complexes.
The Kenilworth at Charles abuts a neighborhood of single-family homes. Area neighbors have complained in the past of unruly students living in overcrowded apartments.
"When you live near an apartment complex, there's always someone holding a heavy metal vomit party in your backyard," Mayhugh said, adding that fireworks, intoxicated students and food thrown into yards have not been uncommon in her neighborhood.
Mayhugh said the owner of the complex has worked hard to keep up the property and work with the community when there have been problems with tenants.
Still, she said, she would like to see Gardina's bill amended to apply to apartment complexes — and to add limits to the number of people who can live in an apartment.
But Kathy Howard, an attorney for the Maryland Multi-Housing Association, said an amendment specifically for apartments isn't needed because the county has mechanisms in place that oversee apartment operations.
"Enforcement mechanisms applicable to multifamily developments regarding myriad issues already exist and work well — which is why the council did not include multifamily developments in the licensing law to begin with," she said.