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Advocates Help Implement New Housing Law

Baltimore’s law expanding inspection requirements to one and two family units went into effect the first of this month and housing advocates say they want to make sure renters know about the new law and continue to push for an increase in housing inspections.

Members of the advocacy group, Communities United, stood outside the Baltimore District Court building at East Fayette and Gay streets early Thursday to pass out flyers explaining the law to tenants heading into rent court.

“We think that this law is only going to get implemented if everyone understands it,” said Jane Derson, director of Communities United.

She called housing “absolutely a human right” because “all parts of quality of life are tied to housing.”

Pernetha Taylor used to live in one of those units where inspections weren’t required on East Fayette Street.

“I had rats in that house, mice in the house, roaches,” she said. “The house had mold in the basement. Kitchen water is brown. Bath tub is peeling.”

Taylor, who lives in the Ashburton neighborhood in Northwest Baltimore now, said when she asked the landlord to clean it up, he told her to move out, a month after she arrived in April.

“I really hope landlords do their part and get inspected,” said Taylor.

Derson says they also want tenants to know that inspections must meet the minimum required standards of Baltimore City building, fire, and health codes.

“We’re encouraging renters to ask your landlord, when are you going to be inspecting this property,” says Derson.

Bill Henry, the city councilman who sponsored the legislation, says “depending on their behavior landlords can renew their license for three, two, or one year.”

According to the legislation, a landlord that passes their inspection or make fixes on their property within 60 days can receive a license good for three years. A landlord that fixes problems with their property after 60 days can receive a two year license. And a landlord with properties in need of fixes can get a one year license

According to the city’s department of planning, 43 percent of housing is renter-occupied; whereas, 37 percent of housing is owner-occupied. The other 20 percent of the housing in the city is vacant.

Derson says with the majority of homes being rented in the city housing inspection is critical.

In the future, she says she would like to see increased inspections for public housing.

“We tried to get public housing included in this bill; we did not succeed,” Derson said. “We’re certainly not going to give up.”

Henry says that in the planning stages of the legislation public housing was not included because it is the jurisdiction of the federal government.

He says if public housing was included the housing authority would have to “kick someone out or let someone stay in a unit with poor conditions.”

According to the new law, all tenant housing must be inspected and licensed in the city before January 1st of next year. The license is good for two years.

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