Special Laws & Rules for Baltimore County

Categories :: Housing > Landlord/Tenant

LANDLORD MAY NOT CUT OFF ESSENTIAL SERVICES

Baltimore County Code, Title 3 – Housing in General, Section 35-3-101

A landlord may not reduce or withhold essential services such as means of ingress or egress, gas, electricity, water, heat, light, furniture, furnishings, or similar services to which tenant may be entitled under the express or implied terms of the tenancy (Section 35-3-101(a)).

A violation of this law is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $1.00 nor more than $100.00 (Section 35-3-101(b)).

PLACEMENT OF TENANT'S PERSONAL PROPERTY DURING AN EVICTION FROM LEASED PREMISES OR MOBILE HOME

Baltimore County Code, Title 3 – Housing in General, Section 35-3-103

Whenever a tenant's possessions are removed from a leased premises in accordance with a properly authorized and executed warrant of restitution, the possessions must be placed on the landlord's property, either in a location designated by the landlord or, if no location is designated, then on landlord's property in a location as near as possible to the leased premises (Section 35-3-103(a)(1)).

Tenant's possessions must not be placed on a public highway or right-of-way or on any other public property (Section 35-3-103(a)(2)). Tenant's possessions that are removed from leased premises under a properly issued warrant of restitution are considered abandoned (Section 35-3-103(a)(3)).

If the tenant's property to be removed is a mobile home or trailer*, the landlord may direct that the property remain at its existing location (Section 35-3-103(b)(1)). The vehicle may not be placed on a county highway or right-of-way or on any public property other than a land disposal site (Section 35-3-103(b)(2)). During the time the mobile home or trailer remains on the landlord's property, the landlord must post it as evicted property (Section 35-3-103(b)(3)). Any person in violation of this law is subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 (Section 35-3-103(c)).

NOTICE TO TENANT OF MULTI-FAMILY DWELLINGS IN FLOODPLAIN AREAS

Baltimore County Code, Title 3 – Housing in General, Section 35-3-302

When any part of a multi-family rental facility, including the parking lot or storage facility, is within the 100 year floodplain as designated on a flood hazard area map of the Federal Insurance Administration or on the floodplain map of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or on other available floodplain data, a specific acknowledgment must be contained in the lease of any tenant who will occupy or use that rental facility (Sections 35-3-302(a) and (b)).

The required acknowledgment must state the following (Section 35-3-302(c)):

“In the event of heavy rainfall, the unit you are to occupy or the motor vehicle parking area or the separate storage facility (as the case may be) is situated within a flood hazard area and may be subject to flooding which may damage personal belongings and motor vehicles. Because of this possible loss, you may be eligible for U.S. government subsidized flood insurance on the personal belongings in your unit. In any event, because of this danger of loss of your personal belongings due to flooding, you may wish to consider acquiring flood insurance which may be purchased from some insurance agents.

Damage to motor vehicles may not be covered by such insurance; therefore, you may wish to also determine whether or not you have sufficient motor vehicle insurance to cover loss due to damage of your motor vehicle resulting from flooding in the area. I acknowledge reading and understanding the foregoing warning concerning flooding and the availability of flood insurance and hereby assume the risk of loss which may result from such flooding.”

_____________________
Tenant signature

This acknowledgment may be a separate attachment to the lease or included in the lease (Section 35-3-302(d)). If it is included in the lease form, it must be distinctly set apart from the other lease provisions and space must be separately provided for tenant's signature or witnessed mark relating specifically to the acknowledgment (Section 35-3-302(d)(1)(ii)).

Any lease that is subject to this law and that does not comply with these requirements is unenforceable by the landlord (Section 35-3-302(d)(2)). Anyone who violates this law is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction is subject to a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment of up to 30 days, or both (Section 35-3-302(e)).

CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS

Baltimore County Code, Article 35 Buildings and Housing, Title 5 Livability Code, Section 5-213.1

The following applies to all rental properties, whether newly constructed or already existing, in which fuel burning equipment is installed or that is otherwise heated by fuel burning equipment or that is attached to an enclosed parking area* (Section 35-5-213.1(b)).

A carbon monoxide alarm must:

  1. Be installed in the common area outside of, and audible in, each sleeping area in the housing unit (Section 35-5-213.1(c));
  2. Be attached to a wall or ceiling and tested and properly maintained (Section 35-5-213.1(d)); and
  3. Sound a distinctively different alarm than a smoke alarm within the same housing unit (Section 35-5-213.1(e)).

The property owner must (Section 35-5-213.1(f)):

  1. Supply and install one or more carbon monoxide alarms;
  2. Provide written information on alarm testing and maintenance to at least one adult occupant of the housing unit; and
  3. Secure and maintain the signature of the adult receiving the written information.

An occupant must (Section 35-5-213.1(g)):

  1. Test and maintain carbon monoxide alarms according to the manufacturer's guidelines;
  2. Replace batteries as needed; and
  3. Immediately notify the property owner, by certified mail, of any malfunction or other problem of the carbon monoxide alarm.

Upon receiving notice from the tenant, the property owner is responsible for the repair or replacement of carbon monoxide alarms (Section 35-5-213.1(f)(2)).

For newly constructed buildings (built on or after January 1, 2008*) the alarm must be hardwired and have a battery backup (Section 35-5-213.1(h)(1)). For older buildings it must be hardwired, plugged into an electrical outlet, or battery powered (Section 35-5-213.1(h)(2)).

SMOKE DETECTORS

Baltimore County Code, Article 14, Title 2 – Fire Prevention Code, Rules, and Regulations, Section 14-2-201

The following applies to buildings containing not more than three rental dwelling units (Section 14-2-201(a)).

Every building must have at least one direct-wired, electrical smoke detector installed by the building owner (Section 14-2-201(b)(1)). If the building was constructed before 1976, the smoke detectors must have a battery-powered backup system (Section 14-2-201(b)(2)).

FIRE PREVENTION

Fire Prevention Code of Baltimore County

Maintenance of equipment

The owner is responsible for maintaining all equipment, systems, devices and safeguards required by the Fire Prevention Code in good working order (Section 1:10.4.1.1).

Grills and Other Outdoor Fires

A permit is not required for small recreational and cooking fires, including campfires, barbecue grills, broilers, and hibachis that are constantly attended and for which routine precautions against spread of fire have been taken (Section 1:10.11.1.1). However, except for one- and two-family dwellings, no hibachi, gas-fired grill, charcoal grill, deep fryer, fuel fired heating or cooking appliance may be stored, used or kindled on any balcony or under any overhanging portion or within 15 feet of any multifamily occupancy (Section 1:10.11.6).

A permit is required for any bonfire, rubbish fire or other open burning upon any private property; the required burning permit must be kept at the site of the fire during burning operations. (Section 1:10.11.1.5). No burning is allowed within the perimeter of Interstate Highway 695 (I-695) nor upon any public street, alley, road or other public property (Sections 1:10.11.1.5 and 1:10.11.1.6).

Residential Sprinkler Systems

All new buildings must be equipped with an automatic sprinkler system or other automatic fire suppression system (Section 1:13.3.2.1.1). All existing high-rise buildings are required to be protected by an approved automatic sprinkler system by October 13, 2013 (Section 1:13.3.2.24.2.3).

OWNER RESPONSIBLE FOR MAINTENANCE OF INVESTMENT PROPERTY

Baltimore County Code, Title 2 – Buildings, Sections 35-2-401 to 35-2-406

Purpose

The purpose of this law is to promote the public welfare, health, and safety of the citizens of Baltimore county; maintain conditions under which the citizens of the county may live and work without unnecessary impairment of their physical and mental well-being; and protect and maintain the property values and the existing character of the county's communities (Section 35-2-403).

Definitions

"Investment property" means residential property from which the owner receives rental income, any structure that has been uninhabited for 6 months or more, or any structure having a commercial or industrial zoning classification or use (Section 35-2-401(c)).

"Owner" means a person, firm, corporation, receiver, personal representative, or trustee, who alone or with others has legal title to a structure, whether in possession of the property or not (Section 35-2-401(d)).

"Deterioration" means damage to, structural weakening of, or signs of decay on any building material of an existing structure (Section 35-2-401(b)).

Maintenance

The County Building Engineer, after inspecting the property, has a responsibility to require the owner of investment property to replace or repair any of the following that are missing or deteriorated (Section 35-2-404(a)(1)):

  1. Exterior architectural features that create an unsafe or hazardous condition;
  2. Exterior walls or other vertical supports;
  3. Roofs or other horizontal features;
  4. Exterior chimneys;
  5. Crumbling or exterior plaster or masonry;
  6. Ineffective waterproofing of exterior walls, roofs, and foundations; and
  7. All other exterior construction, including broken windows and doors, flaking or worn exterior paint, or conditions caused by acts of vandalism.

Trash

The owner is also required to remove trash, rubbish, or other debris from the premises of the investment property (Section 35-2-404(a)(2)). The owner of investment property located immediately adjacent to a residence must keep all trash containers and receptacles with a capacity in excess of 40 gallons in the rear yard of the property or screened, by natural or artificial means, from public view (Section 35-2-405(a)).

Penalties

An owner who violates any of the provisions of this law is guilty of a misdemeanor and is subject to a fine not exceeding $500 (Section 35-2-406(a)). In addition, a person who violates a provision of this law is subject to a civil penalty of $200 for each violation (Section 35-2-406(b)).

LIVABILITY CODE

Baltimore County Code, Article 35, Title 5

Application

The following applies to all residential structures used for human habitation except owner-occupied housing (Section 35-5-201(a)). Generally, all premises in Baltimore County must be kept in a clean, safe, and sanitary condition and be free from infestation (Section 35-5-207(b)).

Enforcement and Inspections

The Baltimore County Code Official is responsible for enforcing the Livability Code (Section 35-5-103(a)). The Code Official may enter a structure or premises with the permission of the tenant for the purpose of making an inspection or performing any other required duty under this Code (Section 35-5-103(c)(1)). A Code Official may enter a property in order to conduct an inspection without permission of the owner or tenant if the Code Official believes that a violation of Subtitle 3 of the Code has occurred and the Code Official has a court order (Sections 35-5-103(c)(2)(i) and (ii)). If a property owner, tenant, or operator of a structure refuses, impedes, inhibits, interferes with, restricts, or obstructs entry and free access to any part of the structure or premises subject to an authorized inspection, the county may seek a court order for right of entry if there is probable cause to believe that a violation of the code exists in or on the premises (Sections 35-5-103(e)(1) and (2)).

Repairs

The Code Official may require alterations or repairs that are necessary to bring a structure or premises into compliance with the Code (Sections 35-5-103(d)(1)(i)). Upon being given notice, a tenant of a structure or premises must give the property owner or operator or the agent or employee of the property owner access at reasonable times to any part of the structure or premises for the purpose of making the inspection, maintenance, repairs, or alterations necessary to comply with the provisions of the Code (Sections 35-5-103(f)). Any repairs or alterations that are required by the Livability Code must be made in accordance with Baltimore County building codes and any other applicable laws (Section 35-5-201(b)).

Unsafe and Unfit Structures

An unsafe structure is one that is damaged, decayed, dilapidated, structurally unsound, dangerous, or of such faulty construction or unstable foundation that the structure is likely to partially or completely collapse, or is a structure that does not provide minimum protection from fire (Section 35-5-203(d)(1)). A structure is unfit for human occupancy or use if the structure is unsafe, unsanitary, has an infestation, contains filth or contamination, or lacks ventilation, illumination, sanitary or heating facilities, or other essential equipment (Section 35-5-203(d)(2)).

If the Code Official finds that a structure is unsafe or unfit for human use or occupancy, he may order it condemned, vacated, and boarded up or fenced (Section 35-5-203(b)(1)). The structure may not be reoccupied without approval of the Code Official (Section 35-5-203(b)(2)).

Displaced Tenants

When a tenant is required to leave a structure because of an order to vacate or an order to make required repairs, the property owner must make a prompt, reasonable, and good faith effort to locate alternative housing of comparable affordability within a reasonable distance of the structure (Sections 35-5-204(a) and (b)). However, if the tenant's displacement is caused by the tenant's own negligent, wrongful, or malicious act or omission, or if it is caused by an act of God or other condition beyond the control of the owner, the owner is not required to locate alternative housing (Section 35-5-204(a)(2)). If the owner refuses or is unable to find alternative housing, the County may provide alternative housing to the tenant (Section 35-5-204(c)).

The displaced tenant must pay the same amount of rent to the person, or the county, who provides alternative housing as paid to the property owner immediately before the displacement (Section 35-5-204(d)(1)). The property owner is responsible for the difference between the rent paid before displacement and the rent required for the alternative housing until the end of the term of the lease agreement or for 6 months, whichever occurs first (Section 35-5-204(d)(2)).

Retaliation Prohibited

A property owner may not evict a tenant solely due to the tenant's complaint to the Code Official of an alleged violation of this Code (Section 35-5-204(e)).

Duties of Tenant

The tenant must (Section 35-5-206(c)):

  1. Keep the part of the structure or premises that the tenant occupies, controls, or uses, in a clean and sanitary condition;
  2. Store and dispose of rubbish and garbage in a clean and sanitary manner as required by law;
  3. Keep owner-supplied equipment and fixtures clean and sanitary and exercise reasonable care in using and operating the equipment; and
  4. Properly install and maintain equipment and fixtures that are furnished by the tenant, and keep the equipment and fixtures in good working condition, clean and sanitary, and free of defects, leaks, or obstructions.

Common Areas

A property owner of a structure containing two or more housing units must maintain the common areas of the structures and premises in a clean and sanitary condition (Section 35-5-206(d)(1)).

Extermination

if necessary, the property owner must undertake any extermination within the structure and on the premises before renting or leasing the structure (Section 35-5-206(e)(1)). The tenant of a structure containing a single housing unit is responsible for the extermination of any insects, rodents, or other pests in the structure or on the premises (Section 35-5-206(e)(2)). A property owner or operator of a structure containing two or more housing units must exterminate any insects, rodents, or other pests in the structure or on the premises, except where infestation within a housing unit is caused by a failure of the tenant to take reasonable action to prevent the infestation within the housing unit (Section 35-5-206(e)(3)).

Exterior Structures

The property owner is required to maintain the exterior of a structure in good repair and in a sanitary condition so that the structure does not pose a threat to the health, safety, or welfare of the occupants (Section 35-5-208(a)).

Windows and Doors

Windows and exterior doors must be fitted reasonably in their frame and be weathertight. Each window must be free of cracks and holes.  (Sections 35-5-208(m)(1) and (2)). Each window used for ventilation or emergency escape must be capable of being easily opened from the inside and shall be held in position by window hardware (Section 35-5-208(n)). During the period from April 1 to December 1, every door and window or other outside opening used for ventilation purposes must be supplied with tight-fitting insect screens (Section 35-5-208(o)(1)). Door locks on exterior doors entering individual housing units must be in good repair and capable of tightly securing the door (Sections 35-5-208(p)(1) and (2)).

Interior Structures

The interior of a structure and its equipment and facilities must be maintained in good repair, structurally sound, and in a sanitary condition so that the structure does not to pose a threat to the health, safety, or welfare of the occupants (Section 35-5-209(a)). Interior structures must be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition free from any accumulation of rubbish or garbage (Section 35-5-209(d)(1)). Rubbish or garbage must be properly kept inside temporary storage facilities and may not be accumulated or stored in public halls or stairways (Sections 35-5-209(d)(2) and (3)).

Plumbing

Each housing unit must have its own plumbing facilities that are maintained in proper operating condition, can be used in privacy, and are adequate for personal cleanliness and the disposal of human waste (Section 35-5-211(b)(1)). The property owner must supply and maintain within each housing unit the following minimum plumbing facilities in a sanitary and safe working condition (Section 35-5-211(b)(2)):

  1. A room separate from other habitable areas, that provides a toilet supplied with cold running water and that affords privacy;
  2. A sink placed in close proximity to the toilet that is supplied with hot and cold running water;
  3. A room that is equipped with a bathtub or shower supplied with hot and cold running water and that affords privacy; and
  4. A kitchen sink, separate from the sink near the toilet that is supplied with hot and cold running water.

 Water heating facilities must be capable of heating an adequate amount of water to be drawn at every sink, bathtub, shower, and laundry facility or other similar facilities, at a temperature of not less than 110 degrees Fahrenheit (Section 35-5-211((e)(4)).

The property owner must also: properly connect each sink, bathtub or shower, drinking fountain, toilet, or other plumbing facility to either a public water and sewage system or to a private water and sewage system that has received all required approvals; maintain the water supply free from contamination; locate all water inlets for plumbing fixtures above the overflow rim of the fixture; and install and maintain the water supply system to provide a supply of water at all times to plumbing facilities, fixtures, devices, and appurtenances in sufficient volume and at pressures adequate to enable them to function satisfactorily (Sections 35-5-211(d)(1) and (f)(1)).

Heat and Electrical

From October 15 to April 15, each housing unit must be supplied with heat or heating equipment capable of supplying heat sufficient to maintain a room temperature of at least 65 degrees F in all habitable areas between 6:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. each day and a temperature of at least 60 degrees F during the other hours (Section 35-5-212(b)(1)). The temperature is measured 3 feet above the floor and 3 feet from exterior walls (Section 35-5-212(b)(3)).

Unless the lease states that the tenant is responsible for providing cooking equipment, the property owner must supply each housing unit with installed cooking equipment (Section 35-5-212(c)).

Each habitable room in a housing unit must contain at least one receptacle outlet, each laundry area and bathroom must contain at least one grounded type receptacle, and each kitchen must contain at least two receptacle outlets on a single small appliance circuit rated at a minimum of 20 amperes (Section 35-5-212(d)(2)).

Each kitchen, interior stairway, water closet compartment, bathroom, laundry room, basement, and furnace room must contain at least one electric light fixture; stairway fixtures must be switch operated (Section 35-5-212(d)(3)).

Violations and Penalties

A property owner who violates a provision of the Livability Code is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine not exceeding $500 for each day that the violation exists or imprisonment not exceeding 90 days, or both (Section 35-5-215(a)(1)).

A court may consider a violation of the Livability Code by a tenant or landlord as evidence of a breach of the lease agreement between the tenant and landlord (Section 35-5-215(b)).

HOUSING DISCRIMINATION

Baltimore County Code, Article 29 – Human Relations, Title 2 – Prohibited Practices, Section 29-2-101 to 29-2-403 and Title 3 – Human Relations Commission, Section 29-3-101

Definitions

“Discriminatory restrictive covenant” is defined as a specification limiting the transfer or rental of a dwelling because of the person's race, creed, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, marital status, or physical or mental disability (Section 29-2-101(b)).

"Housing" means a dwelling for the use of one or more individuals, groups, or families and includes mobile homes and any land that is offered for sale or rent for the construction of housing (Section 29-2-101(c)).

“Rent” means to rent, lease, sublease, let, or otherwise grant for consideration the right to occupy premises not owned by the occupant (Section 29-2-101(d)).

Discrimination Prohibited

A person who has the right to sell, rent, control, construct, or manage a dwelling may not engage in discrimination (Section 29-2-102(a)):

  1. In making or causing the making, printing, or publishing of a notice, statement, or advertisement regarding the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates a preference or limitation;
  2. In representing to a person that a dwelling is not available for inspection, sale, or rental, if the dwelling is in fact available;         
  3. In refusing to negotiate for the sale or rental of a dwelling;         
  4. In refusing to sell or rent a dwelling after the making of a bona fide offer;        
  5. In refusing to make a dwelling available;
  6. In restricting the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling;        
  7. In restricting the provision of services or facilities in connection with the sale or rental of a dwelling;         
  8. By including a discriminatory restrictive covenant in the transfer, sale, or rental of housing; or        
  9. By honoring, exercising, attempting to honor, or attempting to exercise a discriminatory restrictive covenant.

A person may not engage in discrimination in denying a person access, membership, or participation in or restricting the terms and conditions of access, membership, or participation in a multiple listing service, real estate brokers' organization, or other service, organization, or facility relating to the business of selling or renting dwellings (Section 29-2-102(b)).

A person may not engage in discrimination by representing that the existing or potential proximity of real property owned, used, or occupied by persons of a particular race, creed, religion, physical or mental disability, color, sex, national origin, age, or marital status will or may result in (Section 29-2-102(c)):

  1. The lowering of property values;
  2. A change in the racial, religious, or ethnic character of the block, neighborhood, or area in which the property is located; or
  3. A decline in quality of the schools and institutions serving the area.

A person may not engage in discrimination (Section 29-2-102(d)):

  1. By knowingly inducing or attempting to induce another person to transfer an interest in real property by making the prohibited representations described above;
  2. In placing a sign, display, or device designed to indicate that a bona fide offer is being made to sell, rent, assign, transfer, or otherwise dispose of a dwelling if, in fact, the property is not being offered for sale, rent, assignment, or transfer; or
  3. In maintaining a sale, rent, assignment, transfer, or other similar sign for more than 7 days at a dwelling after the execution of a contract or written agreement for the sale, rental, assignment, or transfer of the dwelling.

Discriminatory Restrictive Covenants

A discriminatory restrictive covenant is void, of no effect, and contrary to the public policy of the county (Section 29-2-103(a)).

A person may decline to accept a document affecting title to real or leasehold property if the document includes a discriminatory restrictive covenant (Section 29-2-103(b)(1)). Refusal to accept a delivery of an instrument because it contains a discriminatory restrictive covenant may not be deemed a breach of a contract to purchase, rent, mortgage, or otherwise deal with the property (Section 29-2-103(b)(2)).

Exemptions

This law prohibiting housing discrimination does not apply to:

  1. A rented room or apartment in an owner-occupied dwelling containing only one rental unit (Section 29-2-104(b));
  2. Private clubs that are not open to the public and that, incidental to their primary purpose and not for a commercial purpose, provide lodging limited to or with preference to their own members (Section 29-2-104(c));
  3. Religious organizations, associations or societies, or non-profit organizations and institutions operated or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, that own or operate housing for noncommercial purposes, and that limit or give preference in the sale, rental, or use of the housing to persons of the same religion (Section 29-2-104(d)); or
  4. Age-related dwellings such as (Section 29-2-104(a)):
    • A medical, health, or educational institution established for a specific age group;
    • A domiciliary, retirement, or senior citizens' home or facility; or
    • A facility for preschool children licensed under state law.

Discriminatory Financial Practices

It is unlawful for a lending institution, such as a bank, insurance company, or savings and loan association, to discriminate in denying a loan or in setting any of the terms or conditions of a loan (Sections 29-2-401 and 402). This law also includes provisions governing the deposit of public funds in a lending institution that has engaged in a discriminatory practice; see Section 29-2-403 for more information.

Enforcement

The Human Relations Commission of Baltimore County has the responsibility of enforcing these laws and may (Section 29-3-101):

  1. Investigate complaints of discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, education, public accommodation, and financing;
  2. Undertake training and seminars in intergroup relations;
  3. Initiate and conduct surveys, studies, and inquiries;
  4. Conduct public hearings;
  5. Make recommendations to the County Executive and to the County Council;
  6. Cooperate with other Commissions, agencies, organizations, and groups, including federal, state, and county commissions, agencies, organizations, and groups; and
  7. Provide for conciliation and mediation services.

Source: 

Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc.
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