[HISTORY: Adopted by the County Commissioners of Caroline County 3-17-1987 as Bill No. 86-4. Amendments noted where applicable.]
In this chapter, unless otherwise clearly indicted by the context, the following words and terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- CODE OFFICIAL
- The official designated by the County Commissioners of Caroline County who is charged with the administration and enforcement of this chapter.
- To adjudge unfit for use or occupancy.
- DWELLING UNIT
- A single unit providing complete independent living facilities for one (1) or more persons, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.
- Any person living and/or sleeping in a dwelling unit or having possession of a space within a building.
- Any person who has charge, care or control of a structure or premises which is let or offered for occupancy.
- Any person, firm or corporation having a legal or equitable interest in the property.
- Includes a corporation or copartnership, as well as an individual.
- A lot or parcel of land, including the structure thereon.
- A building in which sleeping accommodations and cooking facilities are provided.
- That which is built, partially built or constructed, including buildings, for any occupancy or use whatsoever.
- STRUCTURE UNFIT FOR HUMAN OCCUPANCY
- One that is unsafe or, because of the degree to which it lacks maintenance or is in disrepair, is unsanitary, vermin- or rat-infested or contains filth and contaminants or, because of the chosen location, constitutes a hazard to its occupants or to the public, as determined by the code official.
- UNSAFE EQUIPMENT
- Includes any boiler, heating equipment, electrical wiring or device, flammable liquid containers or other equipment or machinery on the premises or within the structure which is in such disrepair or condition that it is found to be a hazard to life, health, property or safety of the public or occupants of the premises or structure. "Unsafe equipment" may contribute to the finding that the structure is unsafe or unfit for human occupancy or use.
- UNSAFE STRUCTURE
- One in which all or any part thereof is found to be dangerous to life, health, property or to the safety of the public or the occupants of the premises or structure or, because it is so damaged, decayed, dilapidated, structurally unsafe or of such faulty construction or unstable foundation, that is likely to partially or completely collapse.
General procedures. When a structure or part thereof is found by the code official to be unsafe or unfit for human occupancy or use, it may be condemned pursuant to the provisions of this chapter. If the code official makes such determination, the official shall serve the owner with a compliance order pursuant to § 170-7A of this chapter. Any condemned residential structure shall not be used for human habitation without approval of the code official. In addition, the code official may also determine that equipment located in a residential structure is unsafe and issue a compliance order.
Closing of vacant structures. If the structure or part thereof is vacant and unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use and is not in danger of structural collapse but is a potential hazard to health and safety, the code official shall serve the owner with a compliance order pursuant to § 170-7A of this chapter. Upon failure of the owner to close the premises within the time specified in the compliance order, the code official shall cause it to be closed through any available agency or by contract or arrangement with private persons, and the cost thereof shall be charged against real estate upon which the structure is located and shall be a lien upon the real estate.
Placarding of structures. If the owner fails to meet the terms of the compliance order within the prescribed time, the code official may post on the premises a placard bearing the words "Condemned as unfit for human occupancy or use" or other words to that effect and a statement of the penalties provided for any occupancy or use and for removing the placard.
Occupancy of placarded premises prohibited. Any person who shall occupy a placarded premises or structure or part thereof or any person responsible for the premises who lets anyone occupy a placarded premises shall be liable for the penalties herein provided.
Removal of placard. The code official shall remove the condemnation placard whenever the defect or defects upon which the condemnation and placarding action were based have been eliminated. Any person who defaces or removes a condemnation placard without the approval of the code official shall be subject to the penalties herein provided.
Raze and removal. At the time of service of notice of violation to the owner, the code official may order the owner of the premises or structure that is an unsafe structure, as defined herein, to raze and remove the structure.
Noncompliance. Whenever the owner of a property fails to comply with a demolition order within the prescribed time, the code official may cause the structure, including equipment, or part thereof to be razed and removed, either through an available public agency or by arrangement with private persons. The cost of such razing and removal shall be charged against the real estate upon which the structure is located and shall be a lien upon the real estate.
Salvage materials. In the event of failure to comply with a demolition order within the prescribed time, the County Commissioners or the code official may sell the salvage and valuable materials at the highest price obtainable. The proceeds of such sale shall be applied toward all costs necessary to complete the razing and removal. The balance, if any, shall be paid over to the owner.
The code official is authorized to enter any structure or premises at any reasonable time for the purpose of making inspections and performing duties under this chapter.
Notification. The code official shall give notice of the existing violation to the owner of the affected structure and to its occupants.
Form. The notice shall:
Be in writing.
Include a description of the real estate sufficient for identification.
Include a statement of the reason or reasons why the notice is being issued.
Include an explanation of the owner's right to appeal in accordance with § 170-10 of this chapter.
Include a compliance order as hereinafter described.
Describe the penalties for failure to correct said violation.
Service. Notice shall be considered served when the notice is delivered to the owner personally or is sent by certified or registered mail, addressed to the owner at the last known address, with return receipt requested. Notice shall also be posted in a conspicuous place on or about the affected structure.
It shall be unlawful for the owner of any structure upon whom notice of violation has been served to sell, transfer, lease, mortgage or otherwise dispose of the property until the violations have been corrected or until the owner shall furnish the grantee, transferee, mortgagee or lessee with a copy of the notice of violation.
Compliance order. Any order issued pursuant to this subsection shall be in writing and shall specify a deadline for compliance by the owner, which shall not be less than twenty (20) days, and in the event that repairs are feasible, the order shall specify what repairs and modifications are to be undertaken and completed by the owner in order to correct any violations.
Emergency order. Whenever the code official finds that an emergency exists on any premises and time is of the essence to protect the public's health and safety or that of the occupants of a structure, the code official may issue an emergency order reciting the existence of such an emergency and require the vacating of the premises or such action as the code official deems necessary to meet the emergency. The emergency order shall be effective immediately, and the premises or equipment involved shall be placarded immediately upon service of the order.
Anyone affected by a compliance order may, within twenty (20) days after service of the order, apply to a court of competent jurisdiction for an order restraining the code official from undertaking the action described in the notice of violation.
Civil penalty. Any person who shall violate any provision of this chapter shall, upon conviction thereof, be subject to a civil penalty of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000.), at the discretion of the court. Each day that a violation continues after notice of violation has been duly served shall be deemed a separate offense.
Prosecution. If an order is not complied with in the prescribed time, the code official may request the County's legal representative to institute appropriate civil action. The code official may ask the legal representative to proceed by civil action against the person responsible for the violation in order to:
Any appeal from any order of the code official shall be made directly to a court of competent jurisdiction within twenty (20) days after the issuance of such order by the code official. Written notice to the County Commissioners shall be provided at the time of the filing of an appeal.
This chapter shall apply only to the unincorporated areas in Caroline County, Maryland.
In accordance with Article 25, § 3(s)(2)(v), of the Annotated Code of Maryland, all buildings on a farm and on any premises devoted solely to agricultural pursuits are exempt from the provisions and the application of this chapter.