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Baltimore County Council approves bill allowing civil fines on noisy neighbors

The Baltimore County Council unanimously approved legislation Tuesday night that will allow law enforcement to impose civil fines against rowdy residents and their landlords, expanding and cementing a Towson pilot program that neighborhood groups said successfully tamped down noise complaints.

Dubbed the social host ordinance, the program was launched in 2016 to address years of tension between permanent residents and Towson University students over loud parties and was later expanded to the area around University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

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Tenants and their landlords would be on the hook should they be reported for unruly noise. On a first violation, landlords and tenants could receive a written warning or possibly a $500 civil penalty. If there’s a second violation within two years of the first offense, they’re hit with at least a $500 fine. If the issue persists, offenders may be ordered to pay $1,000 and landlords could lose their rental license.

“Many communities outside Towson have asked for the ability to crack down on rental properties where there are repeated unruly disturbances,” said Councilman David Marks, a Republican who sponsored the bill and helped establish the pilot program.

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“I believe this will greatly improve peace and quiet throughout Baltimore County,” he said in a statement.

Violators can be sentenced to up to 48 hours of community service, although it’s not a criminal offense. The law applies to private property, including homes, apartment buildings with up to six units, hotels, and halls and meeting rooms, according to county code.

Noise complaints in Towson dropped to just 12 complaints between 2017 and 2018 from 51 in the 2015-2016 academic year after the pilot program began, according to Towson University.

In 2019, the county issued 46 citations or warning letters to unruly party hosts and property owners, according to the State’s Attorney’s Office.

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The law takes effect July 21.

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