ARTICLE DETAIL

July 30, 2018

New Rental Property Registration, Inspection, and Licensing Requirements in Baltimore City

By:  Alexandra Queener, Esquire

Effective August 1, 2018, single and two-family rental dwellings in Baltimore City must be registered, inspected, and licensed just like larger properties. The change is a result of the enactment of Baltimore City Council Bill 18-0185 and marks a distinct expansion in Baltimore City’s rental registration requirements. By January 1, 2019, all Baltimore City residential rental properties must be registered, inspected, and licensed.

            Previously, all non-owner occupied dwelling and rooming houses were required to register with the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development on an annual basis. This included registration of vacant buildings, rental properties, and second homes. Annual registrations were due in advance of September 1, and no property inspections were required for single and two-family dwellings. The new law makes annual registrations due before January 1 of each year and requires a property inspection of all dwellings prior to issuance of a license, including an inspection of single and two-family dwellings. Properties that contain more than nine units will only be required to have a sample of units inspected. Inspections of multi-family dwellings must be completed no more than 90 days before the license application is submitted. Inspections of single and two-family dwellings must be completed no more than 30 days before the license application is submitted.  All inspections must be performed by Maryland State Licensed Home Inspectors who are registered with the Department of Housing and Community Development.

            All initial rental licenses are issued for a two-year period. The new law, however, contains a tiered license expiration schedule that rewards responsive property owners. Subsequent to the initial two-year license period, property owners may receive a one, two, or three-year rental license. Property owners will receive a three-year rental license, if, during the 24 months preceding the renewal application, all violation notices or orders issued under Baltimore City Code are abated within 60 days of issuance. If property owners abate violation notices or orders issued under Baltimore City Code within 90 days of issuance, then property owners will receive a two-year rental license. Property owners who do not abate violation notices within 90 days of issuance will receive a one-year rental license.  

            In addition to requiring all rental units to pass an inspection to obtain a rental license, the new law requires rental property owners to prepare a sanitation guide for each property. The sanitation guide must provide notice to all tenants regarding proper waste storage and disposal for the property.

            Finally, the new law gives the Housing Commissioner the power to deny, revoke, or suspend a rental license under a variety of circumstances, including if a property owner fails to abate a violation notice issued under Baltimore City Code within 120 days of issuance.

            According to website RentCafe’s analysis of United States Census Bureau data from 2016, the percentage of renters in Baltimore has increased from 45.5% in 2006 to 52.5% in 2016. See https://www.rentcafe.com/blog/rental-market/market-snapshots/change-renter-vs-owner-population-2006-2016/ (Jan. 25, 2018, last accessed July 30, 2018). Accordingly, as over half of Baltimore City’s population are renters, it is imperative that rental property owners ensure that they are in compliance with the new regulations.

Alex Queener is an Associate in the firm’s Corporate and Real Estate Group.  She graduated cum laude from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 2016. After graduating from law school, Alex was a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Audrey J.S. Carrión in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, where she drafted bench memoranda and judicial opinions on a variety of civil, criminal, and domestic matters, including contracts, business transactions, post convictions, and district court appeals. She can be contacted at 443-275-0644 or aqueener@pklaw.com.