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'City needs to do more': Baltimore leaders introduce bills to crack down on vacant property owners

Posted at 9:32 PM, Mar 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-04 13:40:43-04

BALTIMORE — City leaders want to stick vacant and absentee property owners with stiff fines, some as much as $1,000 per day.

It’s all in an effort to clean up Baltimore’s blighted neighborhoods.

Combatting Baltimore’s vacant property problems could mean stiffer penalties for absentee owners.

City Council, on Monday, introduced a number of bills that could potentially fine someone for vacant property.

That sticker shock is mean to be a wake-up call for property owners.

Talking to Baltimore City leaders, the game plan appears to be if people can’t pay, the city would take ownership which would give some Baltimoreans a chance at buying the property and revitalizing a blighted area.

“My plan is once I get this,” Baltimore resident Tabby Monroe said.

Monroe dreams big when it comes to a dilapidated area of the Barclay neighborhood in East Baltimore.

“I’m gonna do little art shows for the kids inside they lot,” Monroe said.

Holding vacant homeowners accountable

Monroe’s future non-profit requires buying at least four of Baltimore’s vacant row homes. They are not easy purchases.

“Properties that I’m trying to pursue and buy, it’s hard because it has to go to receiver ship and all that type of stuff meanwhile the houses are just sitting here abandoned and get getting rotted out,” Monroe said.

That issue, along with others, are what some Baltimore City leaders are trying to tackle.

“It’s unacceptable. The city needs to do more,” Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby said.

In an effort clean up vacant properties and or streamline the city’s newly approved rem foreclosure process, city council introduced a number of bills Monday.

Several of them would increase fees associated with owning a vacant property in Baltimore.

“It’s going to push more properties into receivership,” Mosby said. “It’s going to push more properties into potential tax lien side of things and hopefully into the hands of responsible owners.”

Tackling vacant buildings in Baltimore

Mosby introduced three of those bills, that include fees directly forwarded to property owners for things like extensive 311 service calls and emergency calls.

According to his bill, owners could be on the hook for $400 per hour per fire engine.

[MORE: City Council President wants to bill vacant property owners for 911 fire responses]

Fire investigation services could cost $500 an hour, and so on.

“We have several examples in my district and across the city has not been getting a failure to abate,” Councilmember Odette Ramos said.

Ramos also introduced bills.

[MORE: Councilwoman Odette Ramos proposes bills aimed at private-owned, unkept vacant properties]

One of her proposals would make property neglect cost more, about $1,000 per citation.

Those fines would continue daily if not rectified.

“The goal here is to get the attention of the owner,” Ramos said. “It’s not just these little high grass and weed citations. It’s this big one you’ve got to pay attention and if they don’t we keep signing them. my bill says every day is a new violation.”

If fines and liens supersede the property value, that could push homes into city hands which then could be sold faster to people like Monroe who wants the local landscape to change.

“I just want to put some type of warmth into this neighborhood,” Monroe said.

And all of those bills are moving forward.

They will now go to their perspective committees for hearings.