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In Focus: Structural Safety in Maryland

Local officials say call 311 if you see a potential issue in your building
Building Collapse Miami Rubble
Posted at 5:16 AM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-06 18:27:21-04

BALTIMORE — As response teams continue to look for survivors in the rubble of a Surfside highrise condo complex, WMAR-2 News is bringing the safety of your homes in focus today.

In Maryland, it's the County (or Baltimore City) government that's in charge of making sure the buildings inside its borders are safe.

But officials in Baltimore won't come out once every certain number of years to check on each building.

Matt Gawel, the Chief Building Inspector for Baltimore County says, there's no requirement for that for existing buildings.

"Certain existing buildings are inspected by the Fire Department for fire safety issues on an annual basis," he says. "But for building inspections, no, we do not inspect existing structures after they are completed."

Unless they are called for a complaint.

The same is true in Baltimore City, according to Eric Uttenreither, the Assistant Commissioner for Construction and Demolition for the City's Department of Housing and Community Development.

"The most important thing is.. if you see a problem, or you think there's a problem, call 311 and put a complaint in," Uttenreither says.

A very similar sentiment to Gawel, "If the residents have a concern, I would suggest they call us or submit a formal complaint, we would send somebody out there to take a look to see if there is a violation or not."

He added that in nine out of 10 cases, the issue is cosmetic - but if its a structural issue it would need to be addressed.

Baltimore County's 10 building inspectors handle around 130-150 inspections every day.

The City of Baltimore has closer to 40 inspectors.

Both Gawel and Uttenreither say if an inspector does find that repairs need to be made to a building, they will tell the property owner, and they can take the owner to court to enforce it.

Uttenreither says, if a property owner doesn't fix it, even after the court order, the City will come in and fix the problem - and then put a lien on the property.

Gawel tells us that eventually the County would hire contractors to fix a property with an owner refusing to fix a structural issue.

"We try not to.. hire the contractor, because we have to spend taxpayer money to do so," says Gawel. "And the chances of being reimbursed are slim."

To submit a complaint online - in Baltimore City, click here.
For Baltimore County, click here.
For Howard County, click here.
For Anne Arundel County, click here.
For Harford, click here.
For Carroll, click here.