Residential Vacant Structure License FAQ

What properties need to be licensed? 

Per the Code of the City of Hagerstown, Chapter 233, any residential structure, single or multi-unit, that has been completely vacant for a continuous six (6) month period; or is vacant with pending action to foreclose on a mortgage or deed of trust; or is vacant with blighted conditions; or has been placarded by the City as uninhabitable is deemed to be a vacant residential structure and must be licensed.

Why is licensing required? 

In order to ensure the safety of first responders and emergency personnel, as well as the health and safety of the general public and to support property values within the City, vacant structures within the corporate limits of the City of Hagerstown must be licensed and regularly inspected.

How long is the license valid? 

Vacant residential structure licenses are good for one year. We will send you a license renewal form each year before the anniversary date, as long as you own the structure and it remains vacant. Please contact the office if you sell the unit, or it is no longer vacant.

Are any vacant residential structures exempt from being licensed? 

Yes. For the calculation of the continuous six (6) month period required to satisfy the definition of Vacant Residential Structure, the following periods of time shall not be included:

  1. The one (1) year period immediately following the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy for new construction.
  2. Any time period during which active work is being legally performed pursuant to a valid permit issued by the City.
  3. Also, a structure that falls within the definition of a Vacant Non-Residential Structure pursuant to Chapter 232 of the City Code.

What is included in the inspection? 

The exterior and interior of the vacant structure shall be inspected on an annual basis. The interior inspection is limited to the vacant portion(s) of the structure to assure compliance with all applicable property maintenance, fire and other City codes for unoccupied structures. Inspectors will be examining the general interior, attic & basement, plumbing, mechanical systems and fire protection, with a focus on ensuring the structure is safe and sound and will not present a danger to any responding emergency personnel. The exterior will be checked to ensure that doors and windows of a vacant structure are securely closed to prevent unauthorized entry and that the owner maintains the structure enough to ensure there is minimal negative economic effect on the neighborhood. A complete checklist of items to be inspected is available from Planning and Code Administration.

Are there any additional maintenance requirements? 

Yes. In addition to meeting the inspection requirements noted above, an owner of a Vacant Residential Structure or Vacant Blighted Residential Structure shall maintain the structure to the following standards, which are based on the Crime Prevention through Environmental Design.

A. Exterior lighting at all entry doors.

1. Shall be illuminated from dusk to dawn

2. Shall be directed downward and away from adjoining premises

3. Shall maintain one foot candle of light measured at one foot above the ground to a minimum distance of twenty feet from the center of any entry door.

a. Exterior lighting is not required at any entry door where street lighting meets the minimum illumination level of this section.

B. All entry doors shall have engaged deadbolt locks.

1. Doors not capable of deadbolt locks shall be secured in an approved manner

C. All exterior sliding doors shall have lift and slide protection.

D. All windows shall have lift and slide protection.

E. All shrubbery, hedges, trees, or similar vegetation shall be maintained so that a clear view of the entry doors from the public sidewalk or street is not impeded.

What happens if I fail to register my vacant residential structure?

Any owner violating the provisions of this City Code shall be guilty of a municipal infraction and subject to a fine of up to $500.00. Each day a structure is not in compliance with the code shall be deemed a separate and distinct violation.

How often are inspections conducted?

The exterior will be inspected annually. The interior of a vacant residential structure will be inspected in accordance with the following schedule:

Vacant Residential Structures - At first renewal and annually thereafter

Vacant Blighted Residential Structures - At initial application and on an annual basis thereafter