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City Council President wants to bill vacant property owners for 911 fire responses

Posted at 10:46 AM, Mar 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-04 13:47:11-04

BALTIMORE — Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby plans to introduce three bills Monday to further address ongoing problems with vacant homes.

One of the proposed laws would require vacant property owners to pay for emergency response services.

That would include the costs of fire department investigations, hazmat situations, and water related incidents.

The bill would permit the Fire Department to send itemized bills to vacant owners detailing the costs of materials used during an emergency response at their property.

A second bill proposed by Mosby would offer incentives to those vacant property owners who address outstanding code violations, and work towards getting their property listed as non-vacant. Specifics of those incentives are unclear.

The third bill would establish a fee structure for those vacant properties that are subject of repeated and proven 3-1-1 complaints.

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Odette Ramos is expected to introduce her own set of bills.

One increases fines for owners who don't comply with "Vacant Building Notices," which requires them to address whatever problems their property may be causing.

Ramos' plan calls for raising each fine to $1,000 which would multiply each day that a notice is ignored.

The goal she says would be to either get the owner's attention, or let the fines add up beyond the property's value, at which point they become what is known as In Rem, allowing the City to remove a property from tax sale, foreclose on the liens, and take possession of the property title.

Concerns over vacant homes in Baltimore City's reemerged, following the January deaths of three firefighters.

Paul Butrim, Kelsey Sadler and Kenneth Lacayo died while battling a blaze at a vacant home on S. Stricker Street.

MORE: Baltimore row home demolished after blaze killed three firefighters

Since then, those problems have shown no signs of slowing.

The latest fire involving a vacant home, happened Sunday night in the 5700 block of Presstman Street.

Currently, there are about 15,000 vacant properties in the city. Around 3,000 are city owned, while the rest are privately owned.