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Hagerstown, MD captures additional $10k each month with rental property inspections

Hagerstown, MD, USA
Tolemi
In Collaboration With
Hagerstown, MD

Government Champion

Neighborhood Services Manager

Project Status

Operational since 2021

At a Glance

Hagerstown introduced its Rental Property Licensing Program in 2003 to ensure safety within rental housing. City leaders wanted to encourage responsible management and operation of rental properties through licenses and inspections, presenting the need to easily identify non-compliant properties.

Problem Addressed

Hagerstown is locally known as the “Hub City" because it sits at the crossroads of several major interstate highways and railroads in Western Maryland. With a population of 40,000 and a total of 18,682 housing units, the city has a vacancy rate of 12%, which is higher than that of the county and the nation.

The city introduced a Rental Property Licensing Program in 2003, which is focused on "ensuring that properties are maintained for health, safety and general welfare of the entire community.” The program is designed to help protect the character and stability of residential areas and property throughout the city. The ordinance requires an annual registration fee of $75 per unit, annual exterior inspections, and interior inspections after four years when a new tenant moves in. As a result, city leaders also sought to encourage responsible management and operation of rental properties through licensure and inspections.

Neighborhood Services Manager, Paul Fulk, and his staff manage the program, from carrying out inspections to ensuring compliance across the city's thousands of rental properties. Reporting tenant turnovers is voluntary, leaving Fulk and his team to rely on the goodwill of landlords to stay compliant or their own moving truck observations. They would then cross-check these examinations against the registration database, utility billing info, and other systems back in the office to determine whether a follow-up was warranted. However, this was not always reliable and the team sometimes sent out notices to resident homeowners who weren't so excited to receive the message.

Fulk tried a new approach - complex reports that utilized data aggregation. This helped, but it was also time-consuming and needed to be repeated on a regular basis. Fulk said, “I could make countless reports but by the time I analyzed them they would already be stale.”

Hagerstown, MD used/is using BuildingBlocks to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

Paul Fulk understood the need for complete, user-friendly data aggregation in addressing the new rental licensing program. The city decided to implement the BuildingBlocks application, a map-based application that connects and updates data held in different systems and formats across departments and agencies. This gave staff the opportunity to find the answers they need with one-click, run advanced spatial analysis, and automate reports on one platform.

When implementing BuildingBlocks, Fulk prioritized the four data sets that he knew would allow his team to stay on top of required inspections and noncompliant properties. With the help of Tolemi Data Engineers, the city set up custom filters, including one that flagged properties where the utility billing address changed in the past 30 days and another that compared the owner mailing address with the property address on any unit that sold in the past 30 days.

The Alerts and Shares feature gave Hagerstown the opportunity to send out emails to specific parties when properties meet custom-defined triggers, notifying inspectors each week with a list of new properties that need to be inspected because of tenant changeover and potential unregistered properties.

Outcomes

  1. With more than 150 properties per month needing inspections, the city is estimated to be capture an additional $10,000 in fees
  2. More reliable information about which properties to inspect, creating less opportunity for the city to accidentally contact resident homeowners
  3. Saved neighborhood services staff hours of desk work every week, allowing them to spend more time on other projects
  4. Fresh, dynamic data reports, allowing city officials to act with the most accurate data in hand

Who Should Consider?

Building departments looking to streamline processes and save staff time with accurate, actionable data.

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