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Elrich Launches Housing Code Enforcement Campaign to Protect Tenants and Address Montgomery County Troubled Properties

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA), at the direction of County Executive Marc Elrich, advised multifamily apartment building owners and managers of changes in the County housing code requirements and enforcement that will better protect tenants and further promote building safety.

“We have known for years that rigorous inspections of rental units are critical to safe, affordable housing.  That is why I worked so hard with my colleagues on a better inspection schedule as part of my tenant rights legislation,” said Elrich.  “Unfortunately, two years after passage of that legislation, I am hearing similar concerns at my listening sessions. This cannot continue. That is why we are launching a housing code enforcement campaign. We are serious about protecting the safety and well-being of tenants, so we need to ensure that we scrutinize properties that have a history of housing code violations. Further, we need tenants to know that we are listening to their legitimate concerns and we encourage them to report violations - and we want them to know that if they choose, they can remain anonymous when communicating with the County.”

The County communication to multifamily apartment building owners and managers outlined protections contained in Bill 19-15, as well as more recently adopted regulations. Bill 19-15 was signed into law on December 12, 2016. The measure expands tenant rights and protections; requires more frequent multifamily housing code inspections; requires additional inspections for properties with significant health and safety issues and/or numerous code violations; and, mandates more transparent data about the condition of rental properties. Regulations referenced in the memo include:

  • Executive Regulation 02-17 – “Establishing Inspection Fees.” Multifamily rental property owners must correct housing code violations by the first re-inspection. If problems persist, property owners will receive citations and will pay for all subsequent inspections based upon an escalating fee schedule.
  • Executive Regulation 5-17 – “Troubled Properties.” Based on a new classification system that measures housing code violations by severity and number, a Troubled Property List will be created. Properties on the List will be subject to annual inspections and required to develop a corrective action plan to address code violations. This list will be available on a new real-time website immediately after the County Council adopts the regulation early in 2019.
  • Executive Regulation 3-18 – “Repair and Deduct.” If landlords fail to correct a housing code violation timely, the DHCA Director may authorize tenants to repair the violation and deduct up to one month’s rent.

Bill 19-15 requires a two-year intensive inspection program to be completed by July 1, 2019. This program is underway and will identify troubled properties. Thus far, of the 689 applicable multifamily rental properties in Montgomery County, 538 properties, or 78 percent, have been inspected. Altogether, 20,176 units have been inspected under Bill 19-15’s two-year “inspection surge.”

“We are on target to complete the intensive inspection program on time,” noted Acting DHCA Director Tim Goetzinger. “But that is not enough. We need to do more. Increased inspections are a staple of the updated law, but we need to do a better job of getting the word out. We need to do a better job of educating our landlords and tenants about rights and responsibilities.”

As part of this renewed effort, DHCA is relaunching the “Renters Have Rights” outreach campaign, whereby renters are encouraged to contact DHCA to learn about their rights and DHCA remains available to help mediate conflicts between renters and landlords. The campaign directs people to call 3-1-1 to learn how Montgomery County can provide free, confidential, anonymous help to ensure housing safety, mediate conflicts, and otherwise advocate for tenants.

Note: Bill 19-15 also encourages the formation of tenant associations that can establish a relationship with property owners. It assures that landlords must offer a two-year lease at signing and renewal. Updated tenant responsibilities are included in the enacted legislation. The updated law also includes funding for additional inspectors and tenant advocacy staff.

For more information about tenant rights and responsibilities, visit DHCA’s Tenant Rights website, which includes tenant rights, responsibilities, DHCA services, and more.

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Release ID: 18-771
Media Contact: Lorraine Driscoll  240-777-6533