Property owners object to proposal of required registration

A plan by Harford County Councilman Dion Guthrie and Harford County Housing Director Shawn Kingston to require all landlords and tenants to register is raising the hackles of some residents involved in real estate.

A 10-member livability code task force is expected to conclude its meetings soon, and a bill with a new code is set to be introduced in January.

"The purpose of the task force was to update [the code] to be more modern and up-to-date," said Pasquetta M. "Pat" McGrady, an Aberdeen rental owner, who represents landlords on the task force.

"At this point, Mr. Guthrie is stressing very seriously the need for registration of landowners, tenants," she said. "I disagree 100 percent. I think that causes another level of government that's not going to help any of the problems they are trying to address."

McGrady said she understands Guthrie has been approached by tenants, who are concerned about problematic landlords in certain areas.

"If they are bad landlords, they are not going to register anyway," she said. "The purpose of the registration is not going to fix what the problem is, and I also think it's just creating more paperwork."

McGrady said Guthrie was talking about a $20 registration fee, but "nobody's seen the bill."

She does not expect the task force to move forward as long as the registration is a possibility.

"They need to clean up parts of the county, but not this way," she said.

Joan Ryder, who is a Realtor, but not on the task force, agreed forcing landlords to register is a bad idea.

"They are looking for a solution in search of a problem," she said. "The person that is the bad person will never register, so they will never solve the problem they want to solve. They are putting the burden on the good landlords."

"Unfortunately, what's going to happen is all these costs are going to be passed on. These poor people are going to be pushed out on the streets," she said, adding it is getting more government involvement in private property.

"Crooks are not registering their handguns," she said. "It's [the government's] foot in the door. Everything has an ultimate goal… I think they need to enforce their own rules and the laws they already have in place."

Guthrie disagreed strenuously with both Ryder and McGrady, explaining that the failure of some landlords to register does not preclude the need for such a law.

"That's always a possibility, but they pass thousands of gun laws. That's certainly the only way you get after the bad [people]," he said.

Guthrie said the housing authority needs more teeth to go after slumlords, who he said have been proliferating as the economy got worse.

"They are very hard to find, they have LLCs, they have lawyers that are out of state," he said. "Now the housing [authority] can come after them and put them out of business. That's the whole point."

Guthrie said no one will be doing regular inspections looking for bad landlords.

"All of this is complaint-driven. No one is going to drive around the county looking for problems," he said.

About the objections some will have to the bill, he said: "If they are interested in trying to clean up the county, they will pass it."

This story has been corrected from an earlier version.

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