Maryland SB 197 Proposed Legislation Municipalities-Vacant and Blighted Buildings
On February 2, Maryland Senate Bill 197 (“Municipalities-Vacant and Blighted Buildings”) received its first reading in the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.
Bill Summary: A vacant building is defined as real property improved by a building that is not occupied continuously. A blighted vacant building is defined as a vacant building that is determined by a municipality to be unsafe or insanitary or that is otherwise determined to threaten the health, safety, or general welfare of the community.
A person who fails to register a vacant building is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine of up to $2,000. In addition, a person who violates this provision is liable to the municipality for a civil penalty of $2,000 per day for each day that the violation continues. The maximum amount of a civil penalty may not exceed the assessed value of the property.
The municipality may set a special tax rate for vacant buildings of up to $5.00 more per $100 of assessed value than the rate that would otherwise apply to the building. This tax rate applies whether or not a vacant building is registered with the municipality. The municipality may set a special tax rate for blighted vacant buildings of up to $10.00 more per $100 of assessed value than the rate that would otherwise apply to the building.
Current Law/Background: The concept of “nuisance” originates under common law and is something that causes offense, annoyance, trouble, or injury. A private nuisance obstructs the rights of a specific individual or group, while a public nuisance is an act or omission that obstructs, damages, or inconveniences the rights of the community. Several types of nuisances are specifically addressed in State law, including:
- conditions that are dangerous to health or safety, including an inadequately protected swimming pool, an unprotected open ditch, an unsanitary outhouse, a foul pigpen, an improperly functioning sewage system, an unkempt junkyard or scrap metal processing facility, an excessive accumulation of trash or garbage, a dead animal, a contaminated or inadequately protected water supply, a rodent harborage, poor housekeeping that could endanger an individual’s health, or any condition that may endanger health and may be transmitted by means including surface drainage and air currents (Title 20 of the Health-General Article);
- dwellings, buildings, vehicles, vessels, aircraft, or any other place(s) used by individuals to administer illegally controlled substances or where controlled dangerous substances or controlled substances or controlled paraphernalia are manufactured, distributed, dispensed, stored, or concealed illegally (Title 5 of the Criminal Law Article);
- conditions affecting public health and involving plumbing, drainage, offensive trades, water supplies, and disposal of any waste material (Title 10 of the Environment Article); and
- property that is used for prostitution or for the administration, manufacture, distribution, or storage of a controlled dangerous substance or related paraphernalia (Title 14 of the Real Property Article).
Depending on the nuisance, the department charged with abating the nuisance is authorized to enter onto private property to determine its existence.
Additionally, each county board of health is authorized to adopt and enforce rules and regulations on any nuisance or cause of disease in the county. If a county health officer investigates and finds a nuisance, the health officer is required to serve a written notice to the person who is causing the nuisance, ordering the person to abate the nuisance within a specified period of time.
The City of Annapolis reports that between 30 and 50 properties may meet the definition of a vacant building and another 20 buildings may be considered blighted.
Current status as of March 4, 2015: “In the Senate – Unfavorable Report by Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs; Withdrawn”.
Please click here to view the full text of SB 197.
Please click here for media coverage (Capital Gazette 3/5) of SB 197.
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