Cumberland Times-News

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January 3, 2013

Frostburg to hold housing code meetings

Increase in rental units spur changes

FROSTBURG — Due to a substantial increase in the number of rental units in Frostburg and to clean up issues involving the housing guidelines, officials have proposed updates to the rental housing code.

“We have had a large increase in rental units,” said Frostburg Community Development Director Elizabeth Stahlman.

Officials attribute the increases to new construction in both student and senior housing.

“It’s been two years since the last time any new changes to the code were adopted,” said Stahlman.

In addition to its own rental housing code, two years ago Frostburg adopted the International Property Maintenance Code, which is widely accepted across Maryland.

“Working with the ordinance, we had realized that it didn’t work as intended,” said Frostburg City Administrator John Kirby.

“We needed to face the fact that we had differences between the city’s code and the IPMC,” said Kirby.

“Now we are going to defer to the IPMC.”

“It’s not going to be stricter,” said Stahlman. “We want the code to be easier and more concise.”

Other problems officials want to address surround inspections and people who have put properties into estates or trusts.

“We only have one inspector. Currently, it’s not feasible for the inspector to keep up with it,” said Stahlman, who said the city has 1,900 rental units now.

The new proposal wants inspections to be changed from a schedule based on the age of the building to inspections being held every two to five years based on received complaints and the properties’ compliance standing.

The current code has properties more than 60 years old inspected annually, buildings more than 30 conducted every two years and properties under 30 getting an inspection every three years.

Other proposed changes involve people who are no longer the owner of their home due to it being placed into a trust or estate.

“Under the old code, they needed to get an owner’s agent,” said Stahlman.

This affects people who deed their property over to their children. The current code treats them as tenants.

“We want them to be able to file for an exemption. This is becoming more and more common,” said Stahlman.

Fees and registration requirements for rental housing will remain the same, according to Stahlman.

Changes to the rental housing code were proposed with ordinance 2012-04 during the Frostburg mayor and City Council’s regular meeting Dec. 20.

Kirby pointed out that the acceptance of changes requires an advertised public meeting.

Although the law only requires one public meeting, Kirby is going to offer two.

“We will have a meeting on Jan. 17 and again on Feb. 21. Both meetings will be at 7 p.m. at the Community Center,” said Kirby.

“Now is the time for feedback,” he added.

Kirby said people can get a copy of the code changes by calling or stopping by City Hall.

“Hopefully, landlords, students, seniors, real estate agents and others will take the time to get a copy and come to the meetings with any comments and questions,” said Kirby.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.

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