By: Bruce Morgan
During the summer of 2018, Baltimore City initiated a “rental-housing licensing” program which included a requirement that all rental units be inspected, and reported on, by a MD. Licensed Home Inspector. The initial idea was to correct major safety issues, improve the rental housing stock and relieve the city of conducting so many rental code inspections. The burden of the inspection and compliance is placed upon the property owner. The city set a deadline of January 1, 2019 to have all 44,000 rentals inspected and reported on.
Instead of simply adopting the successful Baltimore County rental guidelines, the city set off to create its own forms and guidelines. Meanwhile they solicited all of the MD. Licensed Home Inspectors and invited them to enroll into an online registry of available inspectors. And so the nightmare begins.
Once the initial inspection forms were released along with the accompanying “guidance document” problems with the form quickly became apparent. Problems including a requirement for Home Inspectors to conduct pest and rodent inspections. This was without regard to the lack of necessary licensing from MDA to perform such an inspection.
MSPCA immediately notified the City of the fact that they were requiring Home Inspectors to violate the MD. Agriculture Article as well as COMAR. We received no response. We notified all the Home Inspectors of the legal jeopardy if they performed pest inspections and reported the findings without the proper licensing. Their reaction was…..well let’s just say…..“mixed”. Home inspectors that attended a voluntary training class held by the city were told that the pest inspections weren’t really pest inspections and they were OK performing them. This was despite specific written guidance instructions to the contrary.
MSPCA leveraged the MDA into action with a communication to the city regarding the licensing issue……no response. Then Jack Reilly, a local home inspector who had also been snubbed by the city, wrote an op-ed piece for the Sunpaper in September that got noticed…..by newly elected city Senator Cory McCray. The Senator made attempts to contact city housing regarding the MDA licensing issues. No response. McCray then drafted and pre-filed SB33 in Annapolis last October. McCray’s bill would make it illegal to perform pest inspections and issue reports without the proper MDA licensing. This was even though the existing law already does the same thing. We contacted Senator McCray’s office immediately upon reviewing the bill. While supportive of his effort we pointed out some minor amendments necessary to keep all the language consistent with current regulations.
Just days before the January hearing on SB-33 we were contacted by the Baltimore City Housing attorneys looking for a solution to the problem. MSPCA provided language consistent with MDA’s stated position on how Home Inspectors seeing “suspected” pest or WDI problems during a home inspection could report on those observations without violating COMAR.
The revised language in the current, 1/31/19 version of the form permits home inspectors to note “evidence suggesting a potential infestation” with a recommendation to “consult with a licensed pest control professional”. A complete win for Maryland Pest Control Companies.