Council backs inspection delay

The Baltimore Sun

The July 1 deadline for landlords in Baltimore County to have their rental properties inspected came and went.

Now county lawmakers are talking about extending the deadline to Oct. 1 or later. And one councilman, T. Bryan McIntire, a North County Republican, has suggested scrapping the requirements altogether.

About a dozen landlords and residents spoke at yesterday's council work session, most in support of extending the deadline or eliminating the program. The council is set to vote on the rental registration program and several other bills at its Aug. 4 legislative session.

All seven members have co-sponsored a bill to extend the deadline for landlords to have rental units inspected to meet standards, such as having smoke detectors electrically hard-wired. "I suspect the sentiment is to see how it works," said Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat and council chairman.

About 10,000 inspections are already complete, according to county officials. About 2,000 to 5,000 more inspections need to be done. Previous estimates that 25,000 inspections would be required by the law passed by the council late last year were incorrect, said Donald I. Mohler III, a county spokesman.

The goal of the program is "to promote safety and reduce the decline of areas in the county," said Arlone Kriss, a Parkville landlord. "I fail to see how this program will accomplish any of those goals."

She and other property owners say the cost of compliance - in some cases more than $1,000 - is being passed along to renters in a tough economic climate.

Others, including community leaders, say the costs are one-time expenses and are not too much to ask.

"We're talking about windows that open and smoke detectors that work," said Yara Cheikh, a Towson-area landlord who supports the program.

In other business, council members are reviewing a measure that would allow the county to attach liens on residents' properties for improvements to storm water management ponds owned by homeowner associations. The bill would allow the expense of repairs to be spread over several years, according to officials and lawmakers.

Under another proposal by Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Towson-Perry Hall Democrat, the county would provide tax incentives for environmentally friendly and energy-efficient developments that meet U.S. Building Council standards.

Council members are also being asked to accept a $374,000 grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation to expand the police Mobile Crisis Team to the west side of the county. The grant would pay for the salaries and benefits of four additional officers, two vehicles and computers. The county would contribute an additional $191,893 for the unit.

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