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The Baltimore County Council voted Monday night to close a loophole that landlords could use to rent properties to more people than the law is meant to allow.

Republican County Councilman David Marks drafted a bill to amend the definition of a “boarding-rooming house,” homes permitted to rent to three or more unrelated people. The amendment will make clear that landlords are “technically renting” to unrelated people who spend over 30 days in a property regardless of whether they’re paying rent, Marks said.

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Five council members voted for the bill’s passage. Democratic County Council members Izzy Patoka and Cathy Bevins were absent from the meeting. The law will take effect Dec. 30.

It’s illegal in the county for landlords to rent to three or more adults who are not related by blood, marriage or adoption unless a permit is issued by the county’s Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections. Residents in Towson are concerned about a Loch Raven Village landlord who is renting to four college students without a permit to do so.

County Code Enforcement approached the landlord about the issue, but the landlord reportedly told the county the townhouse was exempt from the occupancy limit because no one residing there pays rent.

Randy Cooper, a county resident with rental homes near Towson University, shared his stance against Marks’ proposed law during the council’s meeting last week. Cooper also called the county “an outlier in the state” of Maryland for its “totally ridiculous” two-unrelated-people housing law.

The bill nonetheless faced no opposition at the council’s voting meeting. Marks said the Maryland Multi-Housing Association, which represents owners and managers of rental housing, told him they were not planning to take a position on the bill.

Republican County Councilman Todd Crandell of Dundalk said the council might have to pass more bills in the future to address over-renting issues throughout the county. The Towson Communities Alliance, Associates of Loch Raven Village and the Knollwood Association have voiced support for the bill.

Marks’ bill will also require landlords and tenants to prove an unrelated person in a home is staying there as a guest and not a rent-free occupant. It will also make lying to code officials who are investigating living arrangements a $1,000 misdemeanor fine with the possibility of 30 days in jail.

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