Washington, DC asked in Landlord - Tenant for Maryland

Q: Must I allow the county government to inspect my rental unit for cleanliness? This was not my landlord but the county.

I am not a tidy housekeeper- but I don’t have any insects or anything like that - just unpacked boxes and bags of clothes. My building recently installed new fire alarms and thus, I had to let engineers in, they saw the clutter - today the county knocked and asked to come in and inspect- I would not let them in. They left saying they would contact the landlord. I am a 75 yr. old with mobility issues. Plus I am nervous about so many different people in my unit in like of Covid. What rights do I have?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Clutter, especially stacks and piles of paper, cardboard and the like, is deemed a fire hazard, especially in an apartment building since so many other residents could be affected by it in a fire. The hazard is that paper burns fast and hot and dense stacks of it accelerates the spread and lethality of fire. I have had clients in the past face termination of their lease and eviction based on such packed clutter following an inspection by the county fire marshall, and then ignoring the warning to clear it out. My advice is to begin tidying up and removing what you can to the trash bins on the property, or you may find yourself without a home. I understand some people have a psychological attachment to their possessions, even items of little or no value or use, and it is hard to part with even old newspapers. You do not state what agency or department the county employees are from. Perhaps they are with the family services/senior citizens division and were simply doing a welfare check based on a report of a concened citizen that you might need assistance. Generally, these agencies are there to help, not harm you. They may offer assistance in the form of counseling, therapy, financial aid, and in-home assistance or volunteers to help tidy your apartment, or carry heavy bags of trash to the apartment dumpsters. You are not required to accept their help, but you can select some of the offered assistance and decline others you are less comfortable with.

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