Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs, acting at the direction of County Executive Marc Elrich has released the “Troubled Property List” and launched a new interactive housing code website.
“We have known for years that rigorous inspections of rental units are critical to safe, affordable housing. That is why I worked so hard with my colleagues on a better inspection schedule as part of my tenant rights legislation,” said Elrich. “We are serious about protecting the safety and well-being of tenants, so we need to ensure that we scrutinize properties that have a history of housing code violations, and we have to make sure that the violations are corrected in a timely fashion. Creating a Troubled Property List and making it available to the public in a clear and concise manner is the first step in achieving our goals.”
There are six UpCounty properties on the Troubled Property List, four in Germantown, and one each in Damascus and Boyds. “Troubled property” is a term found in Chapter 29 of the Montgomery County Code. Essentially, a troubled property is a multifamily rental property, which – because of the severity and quantity of housing code violations observed during DHCA’s most recent inspection of the property – is subject to annual inspections by the DHCA.
The designation of troubled properties is intended to assist DHCA in prioritizing where to focus its limited housing code inspection resources among the 688 multifamily rental properties in Montgomery County. There are approximately 73,000 individual rental units in Montgomery County.
A property may also be designated as a troubled property if one or more of the following conditions are observed:
• Rodent or insect infestation affecting 20 percent or more of the units in the building;
• Extensive or visible mold growth on interior walls or exposed surfaces;
• Windows that do not permit a safe means of egress;
• Pervasive or recurring water leaks resulting in chronic dampness, mold growth, or personal property damage in more than one unit; and,
• Lack of one or more working utilities that is not shut off due to tenant non-payment.
Executive Regulation 5-17 “Troubled Properties” is one of three new regulations that better protects tenants and further promotes building safety. The other two regulations are:
• Executive Regulation 02-17 – “Establishing Inspection Fees.” Multifamily rental property owners must correct housing code violations by the first re-inspection. If problems persist, property owners will receive citations and will pay for all subsequent inspections based upon an escalating fee schedule.
• Executive Regulation 3-18 – “Repair and Deduct.” If landlords fail to correct a housing code violation timely, the DHCA Director may authorize tenants to repair the violation and deduct up to one month’s rent.
Additionally, a property designated as troubled must develop and implement a corrective action plan that describes in detail the specific actions that the landlord will take within a specified time schedule to both identify and correct current and ongoing housing code violations in a timely manner and prevent future housing code violations to the greatest extent possible. A troubled property must also submit a quarterly log of its internal maintenance calls upon the request of DHCA.
The UpCounty properties making the “Troubled Property List” include:
• The Canterbury at 20019 Sweetgum Circle in Germantown which has 544 units.
• Seneca Club Apartment at 18065 Cottage Garden Drive in Germantown with 378 units.
• Hamptons Phase III at 19773 Crystal Rock Drive in Germantown which has 232 units.
• The Point at Germantown located at 2 Observation Court in Germantown with 218 units.
• Main Street at 9863 Main Street in Damascus with four units.
• White Ground Road at 17700 White Ground Road in Boyds with two units.
The full list of “Troubled Properties” in Montgomery County can be found at the County’s DataMontgomery.com site.
An individual property is designated as troubled based on a comparison of its most recent inspection results with the results of all other properties inspected during the same time period. Each year, DHCA uses the results of the preceding year’s multifamily housing code inspections to calculate which properties should be designated as troubled. DHCA calculates two numerical scores for each multifamily property inspected: the Total Number of Violations Score (the “TV” Score), and the Severity of Violations Score (the “SV” Score). If a property’s scores exceed the annual thresholds established by DHCA, that property will be designated as a troubled property and it will receive annual inspections.
A property designated as troubled may have the designation removed at the time its annually calculated TV and SV scores no longer exceed the thresholds at which properties are designated as troubled. The minimum amount of time a property will be designated as troubled is one year. This means that a property that has been designated as troubled in Year 1 will have that designation until a subsequent annual inspection of that property produces scores that do not exceed the established thresholds.
Each year, DHCA will establish a list of troubled properties subject to annual inspections. Multifamily properties that do not have annual inspections will still receive a minimum of one inspection within each three-year period.
DHCA does not have jurisdiction over rental properties within five local municipalities: City of Gaithersburg, City of Rockville, Town of Barnesville, Town of Garrett Park, and the Town of Laytonsville.
The new website provides interactive maps, a progress report on DHCA’s two-year inspection surge, housing code statistics including violation details, useful links to tenant rights information and the Troubled Property List.
Note: The original photo associated with this story was of property that was not on the property on the troubled property list and it has been replaced. File Photo.