Crowding May Put Landlords In Jail

Lisa Rein, Washington Post, Dec. 6, 2005

Fairfax County will seek state approval to impose criminal fines and jail time on landlords who allow single-family homes to be jammed with tenants.

The Board of Supervisors agreed yesterday to ask the General Assembly for authority to fine landlords or homeowners $2,500 a day and send them to jail for up to a year for violating the county’s limit of four unrelated people under one roof—a stiffer penalty than called for under the existing zoning ordinance, which has resulted in fines of $100 a day at most, said Michael Congleton, the county’s deputy zoning administrator for enforcement.

Several board members said they were frustrated by the county’s slow progress in curbing crowding, mostly involving immigrant residents in single-family neighborhoods. The problem has prompted complaints from nearby homeowners and concerns about safety code violations.

“It’s a serious issue in neighborhoods throughout the county,” said Supervisor T. Dana Kauffman (D-Lee), who asked that criminal fines be added to the supervisors’ package of requests to the legislature, which convenes next month. “Our county inspectors need real teeth to stop this.” Kauffman’s southeastern Fairfax district is home to many immigrants.

The move toward criminal fines comes as Fairfax and its neighbors struggle to crack down on crowding of immigrants, who are flocking to the region because of its hot job market.

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