Every reasonable effort has been made to assure the accuracy of the
information in this manual. Although the information is believed to be
accurate, if there are any inconsistencies with applicable laws or regulations,
those laws and regulations would apply. The information contained in
this handbook does not constitute legal advice. This handbook is intended
to serve as a general guide.
INTRODUCTION back to top
The mission of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Code
Enforcement Section, is to maintain and preserve the quality of life
in Montgomery County in general and that of our neighborhoods and housing
stock in particular. The Code Enforcement Section is responsible for
administering Chapter 26, Housing and Building Maintenance Standards,
Chapter 48, Solid Waste, and Chapter 58, Weeds, Montgomery County Code.
These Codes define how properties are to be maintained in Montgomery
Consistent enforcement of the County Codes will help to:
- improve the quality of life for Montgomery County citizens;
- provide safe, decent, and clean dwelling units;
- maintain and enhance
property values; and
- prevent blight.
We accomplish these goals by investigating complaints, performing legally
required inspections and educating our citizens regarding their rights
and responsibilities in the area of property maintenance.
This handbook describes what the Code Enforcement Section does and how
it does it. We look forward to working with owners, managers, landlords,
tenants, and civic associations as together we strive to realize our
mutual goal of maintaining the high quality of life in Montgomery County
THE CODE ENFORCEMENT PROCESS back
An inspection is triggered by a complaint, referral, required inspection,
or as part of an overall Departmental strategy in particular neighborhoods
(target neighborhoods). If violations are observed, a violation notice
is prepared and the owner has a stated period of time to correct the
violations. After the stated time period has elapsed, the property will
be reinspected. If the owner has made the required repairs, the case
is closed. Inspectors can grant for good cause an extension of time to
correct violations. If the owner is not responsive, the Inspector takes
legal action by issuing civil citations to the owner. These citations
carry fines of $100-$500 depending on the severity of the violation.
In addition to the fine, the Inspector requests an Order from the Court
requiring that the violations be corrected (an Abatement Order). If the
owner fails to correct the problem within the timeframe set by the Judge,
this Order allows the Department to enter the property, make the repairs
and charge the owner. If the owner fails to pay for the repairs, the
Department places a lien against the property and initiates legal actions
to collect this lien.
CHAPTER 26--Housing and Building Maintenance Standards back
Minimum Standards for Dwelling Units
A dwelling unit is defined as “any room or group of rooms located
within a dwelling forming a single habitable unit with facilities which
are used or intended to be used for living, sleeping, cooking and eating”.
- Every dwelling unit must contain:
- kitchen – stove, sink, refrigerator, space for storage and
preparation of food;
- bathroom – toilet, basin, shower or bathtub;
- adequate rubbish facilities;
- hot water – heated to at least 120
but not more than 140 degrees Fahrenheit;
- safe, unobstructed means of
escape to the outside;
- a heating system capable of providing a minimum
temperature of 68 degrees in
all habitable rooms; and,
- access to any
sleeping room must not pass through another sleeping room.
GENERAL REQUIREMENTS FOR SAFE AND SANITARY HOUSING back
all exterior components of the house, foundation, walls, stairs, windows,
doors, and the roof must be kept in good repair;
- all plumbing must be
kept in good repair;
- all wood surfaces must be protected against decay;
- interior walls and
woodwork must be kept in good repair;
- owner must keep the dwelling unit
free of flaking or peeling paint; and
- owner is required to repaint the
dwelling unit after five years even though there is no change of
MINIMUM SPACE, USE AND LOCATION REQUIREMENTS back
- every dwelling unit must contain at least 150 square feet for the
first occupant and 100 square feet for every additional occupant;
- bedrooms require
at least 70 square feet for one occupant and at least an additional
50 square feet of usable area for more than one occupant;
- cellar space
must not be used for sleeping unless it meets Housing Code requirements
for light, ventilation and emergency egress. Before
using, you must get approval from the Department of Housing and
Community Affairs.; and
- an occupant is defined as anyone over one year of age.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF OWNERS AND OCCUPANTS back
- installation of smoke detectors to protect each sleeping area and
at each stairway leading to an occupied area;
- maintenance of shared or common
areas of land and buildings so that they are clean and sanitary;
- provide a sufficient number of containers
for storage of solid waste in multi-family properties;
- extermination of roaches and vermin in multi-family
of trees and shrubbery; and
- maintenance of all paved surfaces
so that they remain in good condition at all times.
- maintenance of dwelling and premises that he or she occupies and
controls in a clean
and sanitary condition;
- disposal of all solid waste in proper
- extermination of insects and vermin in single family dwellings;
- maintain grass in yards of single family dwellings below 12 inches
SECURITY REQUIREMENTS back
Multi-family Rental Dwellings:
owner must change locks between tenancies;
- all swinging entrance and
exit doors must have single cylinder deadbolt locks or other approved
- door viewers are required in all entrance doors;
- operable windows within
reach of the ground must be constructed, repaired, and maintained
to protect them from being opened from the outside; and
- all access panels
to a roof, attic, crawl space, storage area and any other area
which is not used daily must be locked.
Single Family Rental Dwellings:
The owner is responsible for supplying, installing, and maintaining
a lock for every door to the outside. The owner must supply the tenant
with a key that operates the lock from the outside, and the lock must
operate without the use of a key by a thumb turn from the inside.
AUTHORITY TO CONDUCT INSPECTIONS back
The Department may inspect dwellings, non-residential structures and
premises in order to safeguard the health and safety of the occupants
and the general public.
The Department may apply for a warrant if an owner, owner’s agent
or occupant refuses to consent to an inspection.
Occupants must give the owner access to a dwelling or premises at all
reasonable times to make repairs, conduct inspections, or to comply with
Notices of Violation:
Any violation of Chapter 26 requires DHCA to notify the owner of the
violation and order that corrective action be taken. The notice must:
- be in writing;
- describe the corrective action that needs to be taken;
- provide reasonable
time for performance of action;
- be served on or mailed to the owner/agent;
- be posted on or near the property affected by the notice.
Emergency and Corrective Actions
If at any time, the Code Enforcement Staff determines that a situation
requires immediate action to protect the public health and safety, the
staff may order the owner, agent or operator to take action to correct
the condition immediately. If possible, the order is to be hand delivered
to the owner, agent or operator. If the order cannot be hand delivered,
the order must be posted on the property in a conspicuous location. If
the owner does not take action to correct the condition within 24 hours
after the posting or delivery of the order, the staff may enter into
a contract to have corrective action taken. The owner is liable to the
County for all reasonable and necessary costs that are incurred. These
costs constitute a debt owed by the owner to the County and may be placed
upon the tax bill as a lien on the property and be collected in the manner
in which ordinary taxes are collected.
Any dwelling, dwelling unit, or non-residential structure may be condemned
as unfit for human habitation or unsafe for human occupancy if it:
- lacks electricity, water supply, sanitation facilities, adequate
light, ventilation, or a heating system;
- is, entirely or in part, so damaged,
decayed, dilapidated, unsanitary, unsafe, or vermin-infested that
it creates a serious hazard to the health
or safety of the occupants or the public.
- one which, because of its general
condition, is entirely or in part, unsanitary or otherwise dangerous
to the health or safety of the occupants
- contains unsafe equipment, including any boiler, heating equipment,
elevator, moving stairway, electrical wiring or device, flammable
liquid containers or other equipment, on the premises or in the structure
that presents a hazard to the life, health, property or safety of
or the public;
- is vacant and unoccupied for the purpose for which it was
built; has remained substantially in that condition for at least one
year; and has
been cited for five (5) or more violations of Chapter 26, none of which
has resulted in a “not guilty” finding by a court; or
- is a
If any of these conditions are found, the Code Enforcement Staff notifies
the owner of the condemned property and posts a Condemnation sign on
the property. This sign must not be removed until the Code Enforcement
Staff authorizes its removal.
The owner of the property must notify any occupants that they must
vacate the property. The owner then must secure all windows and doors
that are accessible from the ground or by the reasonably foreseeable
use of a ladder, and must keep all doors and windows secure from unauthorized
Repair or Removal of Condemned Structures:
When a property is condemned, the owner must repair or remove the condemned
structure within the time period allowed by the Inspector. If the owner
does not comply with the Inspector’s order, the structure will
be demolished after giving the owner a 30-day written notice. The cost
of the demolition will be charged to the property owner. If the owner
fails to reimburse the County for the demolition cost, the County will
collect it as taxes on real property. Any such charge is a lien on the
MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR NON-RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY back
The Owner is responsible for:
- the maintenance of vacant properties;
- the removal of solid waste and
maintenance of the grounds;
- the upkeep
and maintenance of all paved and gravel surfaces of parking lots,
driveways, sidewalks and entry aprons; and
- eliminating any condition
which creates a public nuisance in a manner to prevent its re-occurrence.
CHAPTER 48—STORAGE OF SOLID WASTE back
What is Solid Waste?
Solid Waste is all waste materials and debris, including, but not necessarily
limited to, any garbage, sludge, medical/pathological waste, debris from
building construction, ashes, junk, industrial waste, dead animals, salvageable
waste, dead or felled trees, uprooted tree stumps, tree limbs, bushes,
plants, leaves, grass, garden trimmings, street refuse, abandoned vehicles,
machinery, bottles, cans, waste paper, cardboard and sawdust. Solid waste
also includes any automobile, truck, box, container, tire, appliance,
furniture, or recreational equipment that is in a state of disrepair
or dysfunctional, unless the item is awaiting removal or being repaired
or renovated for the personal use of the owner or occupant. The repair,
renovation or removal must be completed within 30 days. Solid waste also
includes any recyclable waste.
Who Provides Containers For the Storage of Solid Waste?
Single Family Houses and Townhouses
The occupant is responsible for providing containers with tight fitting
lids for storage of solid waste in single-family houses and townhouses.
The owner is responsible for
providing an adequate number of containers in multi-family facilities.
Both owners and occupants jointly
share responsibilities for the control of solid waste in commercial properties.
All solid waste storage containers
must be rigid plastic or metal, vermin-proof and equipped with tight
Storage of Motor Vehicles
No motor vehicles are to be stored on residential property unless they
are operable and display valid tags.
Clean and Lien Process
A Clean and Lien Order allows
the County to enter a property to remove solid waste if an owner fails
to comply with previous notices to clean
the property of all solid waste items. The owner is then presented with
a bill for the costs incurred by the County. If the owner fails to pay
the bill within a specified time, a lien is placed on the owner’s
property. The Clean and Lien process has been a useful tool for cleaning
up neglected properties.
HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT back
Complaints may be called in to the Code Enforcement Section’s
Intake Desk at 240-777-3785, or faxed to 240-777-3701.
When calling, you will be asked to provide the address of the property
in question and a brief description of the alleged violation, i.e., junk
car parked in the yard, porch deteriorated, etc. If you are a tenant
please provide the apartment complex name, and, if known, the name of
the owner and/or property manager or agent.
We ask for your name and phone number so that an Inspector can keep
you apprised as to the status of the case, contact you for additional
information, or if you are a tenant, to schedule an inspection of your
rental unit. If you request anonymity, your name will not be released.
The case will be assigned to an Inspector and an initial inspection
will be conducted. If any violations are observed, a notice of violation
is sent to the owner. In most cases, violations must be corrected within
A reinspection will be conducted for all complaints. If any violations
remain uncorrected, a second and final notice of violation is sent to
the owner. This notice states that if the violations are not corrected,
(typically within 15 days) civil citations will be issued.
Our Department will make every effort to work with property owners
and occupants to correct violations of the Code, but when violations
remain uncorrected after repeated warnings, civil citations will be issued.
When a civil citation is issued, the matter goes to District Court.
A trial is held and if the owner is found guilty, the County will seek
an Abatement Order from the Court allowing the County to abate the violation
and charge the owner for the cost. In addition, if the owner fails to
comply with the abatement order, he/she can be charged with contempt.
NEIGHBORHOODS ALIVE PROGRAM back
Periodically, DHCA will conduct inspections of properties in specific
neighborhoods in response to requests from Civic Associations, Code Enforcement
staff, or other County Agencies to ensure that neighborhoods are safe
and clean, buildings are in sound condition and property values are preserved.
The process for notifying owners of these inspections and the enforcement
process is the same as outlined above.
Multi-Family Rental Properties:
Multi-family properties are inspected at least once every three years,
although they may be inspected more frequently if necessary. Inspections
are also made in response to complaints.
A letter is sent to the owner, the management company or agent, and
postcards are sent to the tenants notifying them of the upcoming inspection.
The inspections range from 10% to 100% of the units depending upon the
condition of the property. However, regardless of the percentage of units
inspected, all common areas, storage rooms, boiler rooms, hallways and
stairways and exteriors of buildings are inspected.
Single-Family Rental Properties: back
All single-family rental properties must be licensed as rental facilities.
To license a single-family rental property, contact the Licensing Unit
at 240-777-3636. Inspections of these properties are made in response
to complaints or if they are located within a neighborhood that has been
targeted for intensive code enforcement.
Accessory Apartments/ Registered Living Units (RLU):
DHCA Code Enforcement is responsible for administering the Accessory
Apartment/RLU Program. An Accessory Apartment is a second dwelling unit
that is part of a single-family detached house that has provisions for
cooking, eating, sanitation and sleeping. A Special Exception to the
Zoning Ordinance is required from the Montgomery County Board of Appeals
before an Accessory Apartment can be legally established. A Registered
Living Unit does not require a Special Exception but must be registered
with DHCA and can only be occupied by a relative or caregiver and no
rent can be collected. Accessory Apartments and Registered Living Units
must meet all applicable code requirements for dwelling units including
egress, space and use requirements. For further information please call
the Housing Code Enforcement Office at 240-777-3785.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS back
Q: Is my landlord required to provide air conditioning?
A: There is no requirement for air-conditioning, however, if air conditioning
is provided, it must work properly.
Q: Are there scheduled turn on dates for air conditioning and heating?
A: No. However, every landlord must provide a minimum temperature of
68 degrees Fahrenheit at all times during the heating season.
Q: The branches of my neighbor’s tree are hanging over
my property. Is this a code violation?
A: Dead branches and limbs overhanging an adjacent property is a code
violation; live branches overhanging an adjacent property is not.
Q: How many people can live in a dwelling unit?
A: The number of people who can live in a dwelling unit depends on the
size of the unit. There must be 150 square feet for the first occupant
and 100 square feet for each additional occupant.
Q: My neighbor has an inoperable car in his driveway. Is this a code
A: Yes. Montgomery County Code requires that all vehicles on private
property must be in operable condition and have current registration.
Q: My neighbor won’t cut his grass. Is this a code violation?
A: Yes. If the grass has grown higher than 12 inches.
Q: My neighbors next door are very noisy. How can I eliminate this condition?
A: Excess noise complaints can be referred to the Department of Environmental
Protection at 240-777-7770 or the Police Department’s non-emergency
Q: There is a vacant house on my street. Who is responsible for its
A: The owner is responsible for its upkeep. If that is not being done,
the Inspector will enforce all applicable codes. If the owner cannot
be found, Montgomery County may do the necessary work and put a tax lien
on the house.
Q: My neighbor is running a business out of his home. Is this allowed?
A: Yes. Under certain circumstances, it may be permissible. For further
information, contact the Department of Permitting Services’ zoning
information line at 240-777-6240.
Q: My neighbor is building a deck on his house. Is a building permit
A: Yes. For further information, contact the Department of Permitting
Services’ building permits line at 240-777-6210.
Q: My neighbor’s trash cans do not have lids and trash
gets scattered about the neighborhood. What can I do?
A: All trashcans must have tight fitting lids. The Division of Housing
Code Enforcement enforces this code. Call the Code Enforcement Section’s
Intake Desk at 240-777-3785.
Q: My neighbor is putting food scraps in his compost pile. Is this permitted?
A: It is only permitted when the compost pile is completely rodent-proofed.
Q: My neighbor is renting out his basement. Is this permitted?
A: Under certain circumstances it is legal. It is highly recommended
that an investigation be conducted to ensure compliance with current
IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS
- Adult Protective Services (DHHS) 240-777-3000
- Abandoned Vehicles 301-840-2454
- Animal Services Division (MCP) 240-773-5925
- Building Permits 240-777-6210
- Building Code Inspections 240-777-6210
- Child Welfare Services (DHHS) 240-777-3558
- Consumer Affairs 240-777-3636
- County Information 240-777-1000
- County Attorney’s Office 240-777-6700
- Electrical Licenses & Permits 240-777-6210
- Environmental Protection 240-777-7770
- Fire Code Violations 240-777-2457
- Housing Code Enforcement 240-777-3785
- Housing Opportunities Commission 301-929-6700
- Landlord-Tenant Affairs 240-777-3609
- Noise Control 240-777-7770
- Recycling/Leaf Collection 240-777-6410
- Snow Removal/Pot Holes 240-777-7623
- Solid Waste 240-777-6410
- Street Lights 240-777-2190
- Untagged Vehicles on Private Property 240-777-3785
- Use & Occupancy Certificates 240-777-6370
- Vendor Information 240-777-6256
- Water Quality Control 240-777-7770
- Weeds & Tall Grass on Private Property 240-777-3785
- Zoning Information 240-777-6240
- Zoning Complaints 240-777-6259