Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich yesterday announced the completion of a two-year County initiative to inspect 686 apartment buildings – a new protocol that is the most aggressive among large jurisdictions in the Washington area.
Over the two-year period, the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) inspected more than 22,000 apartment units, identified more than 31,000 violations and ensured that 96 percent of the violations were corrected.
“Tenants deserve to live in safe housing conditions,” said County Executive Elrich. “I have long worked on tenant issues and called for these more frequent and thorough inspections in my tenant rights legislation Bill 19-15 which the County Council unanimously supported. Over the past two years, our surge inspections enforced health and safety violations and identified the most problematic buildings. These surge inspections are a good start, and we will continue inspecting ‘Troubled Properties’ annually and intensively until each becomes compliant. This gives apartment building owners an incentive to maintain their building within code.”
According to a press release:
The initiative marks the first time that the County has inspected so many apartment buildings in this period of time and makes Montgomery County the leader in identifying and focusing resources on the most problematic buildings as well as implementing such a thorough and systematic enforcement regimen.
Based on the number and severity of violations found, each apartment building was identified as Compliant, At-Risk or Troubled. Nearly two-thirds of apartment buildings (444) were found to be Compliant; 112 were classified as At-Risk; and 130 were identified as Troubled Properties. Category designations are based on the number and severity of violations found during inspection.
Housing code inspections will continue to be handled systematically, with enforcement mainly focused on at-risk and troubled properties. At apartment buildings deemed compliant, a minimum of 25 percent of units will be inspected at least once every three years. At-Risk properties will have 25 percent or more units inspected on a more frequent basis. Troubled Properties are subject to an annual inspection regime including 100 percent of units, as well as a requirement to develop a corrective action plan for violations found. The Troubled Properties designation applies for at least one year.
Montgomery County’s inspection process includes: regularly inspecting at least 25 percent of units in each building; continuing to conduct inspections, issue citations and charge escalating fees until violations are abated; and, the ability for the County to authorize tenants to hire a licensed contractor to fix violations outstanding after 30 days. The program also focuses enforcement resources on “Troubled Properties.”
Under the tenant rights legislation Bill 19-15, which was sponsored by County Executive Elrich when he was a member of County Council, when apartment property owners fail to correct housing code violations by the first re-inspection, they receive citations and pay escalating fees for all subsequent inspections. DHCA issued 309 citations during the two-year inspection initiative.
County-wide, 188 units of the 22,199 units inspected were identified as having mold. To enforce remediation, DHCA cited and re-inspected such violations persistently. DHCA recently tightened the requirements and timeframes in which mold must be remedied, requiring instances of heavy mold to be corrected within 24 hours to two weeks, depending upon the level of severity.
Read the full press release for more information.