Smile! You're on code-enforcer camera
Baltimore housing-code enforcers have new authority to fine property owners who get violation notices but don't do anything about the problems -- a change from the old system of no recourse but court. That's for housing issues that require a warning, from broken gutters to vacant and unsafe homes.
The city has long been able to issue immediate fines to property owners for trash problems, though. And now it has the photographic proof online for all to see, a feature that went live a few weeks ago.
I threw "Canton" into Baltimore Housing's citation search tool, and up popped more than 100 citations with pictures. There's the Baylis Street property -- an in-process rehab? -- with wood and other construction materials piled up behind the open-to-the-elements rowhome. The Belnord home with trash all down the front steps, an old couch slumped on the back patio. The Conkling property owner who dumped a mattress and other trash in an alley -- including mail with name and address. (Doh!)
Baltimore Slumlord Watch, a blog that calls out problem property owners and expresses frustration with city reaction, thinks this feature is pretty keen.
Michael Braverman, deputy commissioner for permits and code enforcement at Baltimore Housing, said the photos are about transparency.
People who get sanitation fines often "have questions that can be resolved by viewing the photograph of the citation," Braverman said. Earlier, they'd call to say they didn't understand the problem or to insist that it couldn't possibly be their property. "They wanted to see the evidence, and you used to have to travel here to see it," he said.
Now it's just a click away. For the cited person's neighbors, too.
"You can look at all the citations that were issued in your neighborhood," Braverman said.
What do you think of code enforcement in your neck of the woods, whether you're in the city or not?