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Frequently Discussed Topics

The Office of the County Attorney provides this information as a public service, with the hope that you will find it helpful in familiarizing yourself with legal issues that may affect you. This is not a subsitute for personal legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. While we attempt to ensure the accuracy of this information, we cannot promise that everything on this web site is complete or up to date.

Caveat: Always refer to the most current version of the Montgomery County Code to insure accurate information.

Criminal matters:
The State's Attorney's Office for Montgomery County is responsible for prosecuting serious criminal and motor vehicle cases before the District and Circuit Courts for Montgomery County. You may contact the State's Attorney's Office at (240) 777-7300.

Pending court cases:
Our office is not connected with the court system and cannot provide information on pending court cases. For further information, you may contact the Circuit Court Clerk at (240) 777-9466 or the District Court Administrative Commissioner at (240) 279-1526.

Legal advice on private issues:
Citizens needing legal advice on private issues should retain a private attorney. Check the local Yellow Pages for informative listings by name and area of practice or contact the Bar Association of Montgomery County's Legal Referral Service at (301) 424-3454.

Legal services for the indigent:
These services may be obtained from the Legal Aid Bureau, Inc., Metropolitan Maryland Office, (301) 927-6800 or (888) 215-5316.

Board of Education:
Our office does represent the Board of Education. You may contact us at (240) 777-6700 and your call will be appropriately directed.

The Animal Services Division, a Division of the Police Department, responds to complaints such as animals at large, cruelty to animals, dangerous animals, etc. They can answer questions regarding animal licensing and vaccination. This Division will also collect animals, for appropriate reasons. The Animal Services Division can be reached at (240) 773-5925.

County Code:
The Office of the County Attorney publishes the Montgomery County Code in-house and sells it to subscribers. Subscribers may purchase the entire Code, the Zoning Ordinance, or individual chapters. You may purchase these items in print form or on CD-ROM. These resources are also available on-line at www.amlegal.com. Subscribers to the entire Code or the Zoning Ordinance receive periodic updates. Individual chapter requests are not updated. You may request an order form and cost information by calling (240) 777-6700.

Generally, claims against an employer are private matters. If, however, your situation involves discrimination, it may be within the jurisdiction of the County Human Rights Commission. The Human Rights Commission is available to screen your situation, to determine if your situation merits a claim against your employer, and to assist you with filing a complaint, if appropriate. You may contact the Human Rights Commission at (240) 777-8491.

Fortune Telling:
Forecasting or foretelling, or pretending to forecast or foretell, the future by cards, palm reading, or any other scheme is prohibited in Montgomery County.

Gambling, including bingo and raffles, is regulated by State law. Please refer to the Maryland Annotated Code for provisions regulating these issues or contact the Maryland Attorney General's Office at (410) 576-6300.

Depositing handbills on automobiles on public property is prohibited by the Montgomery County Code. You may distribute handbills on private property, with the consent of the property owner.

Landlord and Tenant:
The Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs, (240) 777-3600, can answer questions involving the rights and/or obligations of a landlord or tenant. Security deposit matters are regulated by State law. Please refer to the Real Property Article of the Maryland Code or contact the Maryland Attorney General's Office at (410) 576-6300 with these questions.

The Departmentof Permitting Services, (240) 777-6210, can provide information regarding permits required for particular structure types. If the property is within a homeowners' association, different or additional requirements may apply. Also, not all municipalities follow the County Code. These municipalities may have their own regulations.

Property line disputes and trespass:
These are private issues and you should contact a private attorney to discuss your rights and options. The Office of the County Attorney cannot give private advice.

The Montgomery County Code requires commercial establishments and multi-family dwelling units (apartment buildings) to clear snow from entrances to parking areas on their property and to adjacent bus stops. The law also requires property owners to clear walkways at or adjacent to residential properties, including any walkway in the public right-of-way -- for example, a public sidewalk in front of a private residence -- within 24 hours after the end of the precipitation that caused the condition. The law does not apply to unpaved walkways, private walkways, or to occupants of multi-family residential properties and most homeowners' associations. If a snowplow redeposits snow or ice, the law allows a second 24-hour period for removal. If the ice or hard packed snow is "impossible or unreasonably difficult to remove," the owner or occupant must apply sufficient sand, salt, or other abrasives to provide safe pedestrian use.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) created the process and easement documents that create transferable development rights (TDRs). If you seek to create TDRs, you should contact the M-NCPPC at (301) 495-4600. The Office of the County Attorney reviews easements creating TDRs for form and legality and keeps an ongoing list of the numbers assigned to the TDRs. We do not, however, maintain information that would confirm the status of available TDRs for any particular property. We also do not record the easements in the land records and have no involvement in the subsequent sale or transfer of the TDRs. You can determine whether TDRs have been created on a property or how many remain availalbe by conducting a title examination. A private attorney can help you with the title examination.

As stated in the Montgomery County Code, the owner of residential property has an obligation to "maintain shrubbery, trees, vines, hedges, and other vegetation, including dead trees and branches, so they do not constitute a danger to the public health or safety." Generally, a property owner may remove a part of a tree that overhangs his property, as long as he does so in a manner that does not harm the tree. Limbs that have fallen from a neighbor's tree can be removed. The County does not, however, regulate who is responsible for the cost of this removal. This decision is a private one and the homeowner should discuss the matter with the neighbor to determine who will bear the expense.

The County only removes trees or tree limbs that are diseased or in the public right of way. Contact the Department of Public Works and Transportation, (240) 777-ROAD, to report these matters.

A vendor permit is required for selling any goods, such as food, flowers, and crafts, or providing services, including mobile food vendors, door-to-door vendors, and vendors selling from sidewalks and median strips. The Department of Permitting Services can answer most questions regarding vendor regulations, (240) 777-6300. If questions relate to roadside produce vendors, the Department of Economic Development will assist you through their agricultural program, (301) 590-2823.

The Office of the County Attorney can answer general zoning questions related to information contained in the Montgomery County Zoning Ordinance, including permitted land uses, special exception uses, setback and height limitations, parking, and signs. If a more detailed answer is needed, contact the Department of Permitting Services, (240) 777-6240, or consult with a private attorney about particular circumstances. If the property is within a municipality, different requirements may apply.

Last edited: 10/1/2009