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Mayor's Report for November 2002

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Town to Begin Apartment Building Inspections

By Mayor Michael Herman

It is with great pleasure that I announce the beginning of apartment inspections of the nearly 1,000 apartment units located in Riverdale Park.

Several years ago, there were a couple of councilmembers (myself among them) who wanted to begin the inspection of apartment buildings and individual apartment units. The reasons were to promote safety and to ensure compliance with county housing and habitability codes. Our sister city of Hyattsville has been doing a similar program for several years with great success. Unfortunately, there was no political will to do this program in the past. However, this year the town council adopted a budgeted inspector position and apartment inspection legislation. Before year's end the first inspections will occur now that an inspector has been hired.

Under prior law, the county was performing all apartment inspections. This was for all buildings which had at least two apartment units (Single family rental homes are already being inspected annually by the town). However, these apartment inspections by the county were rare and only initiated if complaints were filed. Many of our less fortunate and less well-informed apartment residents had no idea who to call if conditions at a building were not up to standards. Many are unaware of the housing code and standards in the first place. Now, if a problem is not corrected by a property owner or manager, there is a very real inspection program. Now, apartments will be inspected regularly. It is a vast improvement from what has existed previously.

Under the new law, the Town will take over primary inspection authority. The Town will do routine inspections of all apartment units and buildings once every two years, with more frequent inspections done as a result of a complaint. The Town has now hired another code enforcement officer. Both employees will be cross trained in general code enforcement as well as housing code and habitability standards. If violations are uncovered, there will be a limited time to correct the problem. If problems still remain, apartment owners face steep fines and possible imprisonment for having committed a municipal infraction. Lt. Christopher Clites of our Police Department is overseeing this program and the implementation of rules and procedures for inspections. I have confidence that the inspection program he will initiate will be among the very best in the state.

I want to compliment my colleagues on the Town Council who had the vision and foresight to unanimously adopt this new program. As a result of this new initiative all of our town residents will be able to be safe and secure in their homes. In addition to improving the quality of life for our renters, it will also have a positive effect on the properties that abut these apartment buildings. It will allow us to correct problems in days or weeks what once took months. It will also allow us to uncover problems that previously went undetected.

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