More landlords in Baltimore County will have to obtain licenses for their rental properties under legislation approved Monday by the County Council.
The measure could add thousands of properties to the county's rental registration program, which started more than a decade ago and now includes more than 23,500 properties. The program currently requires registration of rental properties that have up to six units, with some exceptions.
The latest legislation, approved unanimously by the seven-member council, eliminates or narrows some of those exemptions to the program. It was sponsored by Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat.
Mike Mohler, who administers the registration program, said the changes could add more than 2,500 properties to it.
Bevins said the bill is aimed at ensuring the safety of more rental homes and helping identify problem landlords.
"The community associations support this in my district," she said. "It really helps identify landlords when there is a problem with a rental property."
The bill eliminates the exemption for rental properties that are not connected to the public sewer system and for so-called "group houses" — a group of three or more attached dwellings owned by the same person.
It also narrows the family exemption for properties. Currently, the program exempts units occupied by anyone related to the property owner. Under the new rules, the family exemption will apply only if the tenant is a grandparent, parent, child or grandchild of the owner.
The program requires registered properties to be inspected every three years by a state-licensed home inspector, who checks for smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms, proper ventilation and the safety of the home's electrical and plumbing systems.
Registration also carries a licensing fee of between $40 and $50 for three years, depending on the number of tenants and whether the owner also occupies the property.
The Baltimore County Campaign for Liberty, which promotes libertarian principles, opposed the bill, saying it encroached upon property owner rights.
Landlords who are newly subject to the registration program will have until Sept. 1 to obtain a license.
The existing regulations allow the county to fine property owners up to $1,000 a day for violating the registration rules. But Mohler said the county typically imposes a $1,000 one-time fine. Only once in the program's 11 years has the county fined someone $1,000 a day, he said.
"The goal is compliance," he said.