Photo via Bethesda Magazine + Andrew Metcalf
On May 2, the Montgomery County Council passed a bill, which would require owners of vacant houses to register with the County. It would also require owners of unmaintained homes to pay inspection and other fees.
The goal of the legislation is to eliminate neighborhood eyesores. Tom Hucker was the lead sponsor of the bill and was quoted in Bethesda Magazine saying, “Absentee owners shouldn’t be able to leave a property to rot in a residential area and reduce property values or attract crime.”
Estimates indicate that there are hundreds of vacant properties in Montgomery County. Currently, the County can fine owners of vacant properties, but fines can be disputed in court. The new bill would instead impose sliding scale escalating fees charged directly to the property owner, without any court intervention.
Under Hucker’s bill, the county’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs would actively inspect unmaintained vacant properties and inspect them for code violations.
Properties that are being renovated, being sold, or rented would not be required to be registered. Also, homeowners who are away for a period of time but plan to return would not need register.
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