Code Enforcement in the Neighborhoods
A primer on how we keep Takoma Park safe and tidy
It’s common to see Code Enforcement staff out and about in Takoma Park neighborhoods, looking for overgrown weeds, derelict cars, peeling paint, and unshoveled sidewalks. It’s also not unusual for neighbors to get upset about code violation notices – the process can be confusing and even alarming. Who wants a notice of a violation? What will the punishment be?
City staff assures residents that the system is not about punishment– it’s about keeping homes safe and in good repair. It’s also meant to take care of the eyesore properties that threaten to pull down property values across the board.
How It Works
The Property Maintenance Code applies to the exterior of all buildings, vacant land, and even sheds and carports. It establishes basic standards for repair only – it does not address aesthetic choices like paint color. You can paint with any color you like!
Among the most common violations: are grass over 12 inches high, an untagged vehicle, peeling paint, trash on the ground or left out on the curb, rotted wood, or broken fencing. If there is a code violation, residents get a Courtesy Notice hung on the door, with the violation(s) listed and a deadline of 15 days for correcting it. The name of the inspector and the phone number is on the notice in case you have questions or need more time. Staff issues notices so that there will be a weekend between the time the notice is posted and the deadline for correction.
If during the initial inspection, the violation noted is a significant item or a justified complaint from another person, a Notice of Violation (NOV) is issued. A major violation could be any life safety issue, extensive peeling paint, trash left out, structure damage, or graffiti. An NOV is also issued if the items noted on the Courtesy Notice are not corrected. It comes by certified mail, involves no fines, and allows seven to 20 days for compliance.
What if a resident can’t make the corrections? Staff urges residents to call to discuss the issue before the deadline for compliance. If there is more than one violation and one or more have been corrected, residents can request more time to take care of the rest. The decision to extend the deadline is made on a case-by-case basis.
Still no progress? The city issues a Uniform Civil Citation for each of the violations not abated and attaches fines to each. Residents have 25 days to correct the violation from the date it is issued and the option of requesting a trial. Even if you pay the fine, the case is brought to a hearing in District Court if the violation is not abated.
And, even if you’ve got a court date, you should continue to work on addressing the violation. Also, be sure to attend the hearing, as it is the District Court judge that makes the final decision on fines and abatement dates.
Courts typically issue an order requiring the owner to correct the violation, and the Judge may also assess a fine. Once the violations have been corrected, the case is closed, and the owner is notified.
Throughout this process, the owner is encouraged to contact the inspector. The city’s goal is to bring the property into compliance with the code, not to go to court.
Code Enforcement in Takoma Park
Information about the Division can be found in the Code Enforcement web section.
Contact Code Enforcement
Concerned about the condition of a property? Contact the Code Enforcement Manager at (301) 891-7113 or submit your concerns online.
Code Enforcement staff are happy to meet with individual citizens or neighborhood groups to provide information about the code enforcement process and answer any questions. Please reach out to us at 301-891-7113 or email Rick Baravechia, Code Enforcement manager.