Topics on this page:
- What is the Housing Code?
- Definition of "habitable room" or "bedroom"
- Exterior property areas
- Exterior structure
- Interior structure
- Basic facilities
- Installation and maintenance
- Occupancy requirements
- Light and ventilation
- Fire safety
- Responsibilities of occupants and owners
- Rooming Houses
- Violations, notice, and penalties
- Hardship exceptions
What is the Housing Code?
All residential structures and premises in Prince George’s County are subject to minimum requirements and standards for light, ventilation, space, heating, sanitation, protection from the elements, life safety, fire safety, and general protection against hazards. The Prince George’s County Housing Code defines these minimum requirements and standards.
The Prince George’s County Code also addresses the responsibility of owners, operators, and occupants, as well as the rules regarding occupancy. The Code includes provisions related to the administration, enforcement, and penalties associated with the minimum requirements and standards for buildings. Enforcement of the Housing Code is the responsibility of the Director of the Prince George's County Department of Permitting, Inspections, and Enforcement (Director).
The foundation of the Housing Code is the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC). The IPMC is a model code that defines regulations and standards for the maintenance of existing buildings and properties. The model code establishes minimum requirements for the preservation, maintenance, and occupancy of buildings. Prince George’s Code of Ordinances adopts the IPMC model code with some additions, exceptions, and modifications.
The IPMC covers various aspects of property maintenance, including:
Structural requirements: The IPMC outlines guidelines for maintaining the structural integrity of buildings, including foundations, walls, roofs, and other components.
Mechanical systems: The IPMC addresses maintenance requirements for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical systems to ensure their safe operation.
Fire safety: The IPMC includes provisions related to fire prevention, detection, and protection, such as regulations for fire exits, emergency lighting, and fire alarm systems.
Exterior property areas: The IPMC sets standards for the maintenance of exterior property areas, including sidewalks, parking lots, fences, and landscaping, to ensure safety and prevent hazards.
Building maintenance: The IPMC covers various aspects of building maintenance, including requirements for weather protection, ventilation, lighting, sanitation, and pest control.
Safety and occupancy: The IPMC addresses safety issues related to occupancy, such as requirements for means of egress, clearances around equipment, and occupant capacity.
Several incorporated cities and towns in Prince George’s County have adopted their own housing codes. County law requires that the local codes provide standards at least as strict as the County code. You should contact your local municipal government to find out whether a local housing code or the County Housing Code applies. You can find more details and contact information about each municipality at this List of Municipalities.
For additional information, see these links to the most frequently used Prince George’s County Housing Codes for Property Maintenance, and the Building Codes and Bulletins (changes or modifications to the building permit process).
The following is a summary of some, but not all, of the requirements of the Housing Code.
Definition of "habitable room" or "bedroom"
"Habitable room" means a room or enclosed floor space arranged for living, eating, and sleeping. It does not include bathrooms, toilet compartments, laundries, pantries, foyers, hallways, and other accessory floor spaces.
Exterior property areas
Exterior areas must be kept clean, without any accumulation of rubbish or garbage.
Premises must be graded and maintained to prevent accumulation of stagnant water outside or within any structure on the premises.
Read the law: International Property Maintenance Code §302.2
Exterior areas must be kept free of excessive weed growth and plants which are harmful to public health.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-118(d)
Buildings and premises should be kept free from insect and rodent infestations. For both single-occupancy and multiple-occupancy properties, the owner assumes responsibility for pest control. Furthermore, regardless of the type of structure, the owner is responsible for a rodent and pest-free environment on an ongoing basis.
Accessory structures such as detached garages, driveways, fences, walkways, etc., must be kept structurally safe and in good repair. Exterior steps and walkways must be kept free of unsafe obstructions or hazardous conditions.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-118(e)
The foundation, roof, exterior walls, and all other exterior surfaces must be kept in a workmanlike state of repair and in a condition to exclude rodents. The foundation must adequately support the building.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 4 §4-123
Exterior surfaces must be maintained in good condition. If the exterior surfaces are constructed from wood, the surfaces must be safeguarded from weather damage and decay by painting or other protective treatments. Any paint that is peeling, flaking, or chipped should be promptly removed, and the surfaces should be repainted. Additionally, the joints between siding or masonry, as well as the perimeters of windows, doors, and skylights, must be resistant to weather conditions and effectively sealed against water. In the case of metal surfaces exposed to the elements, they should be coated with a protective layer to prevent rust or corrosion.
Read the law: International Property Maintenance Code §304.2
Exterior stairs, porches, and similar structures must be safe, capable of supporting their designated loads, and well-maintained. Stairs and porches with more than four steps must be equipped with handrails.
Windows, doors, and basement hatchways must be weatherproof and in good repair. Windows must have intact glass panes or approved alternatives without any holes or cracks. Operable windows must be easily opened and secured with appropriate hardware. Basement hatchways should prevent the entry of rodents, rain, and surface water.
All buildings must display legible and visible address numbers facing the street or road. The numbers should contrast with the background. Structures with multiple addresses must use numbers at least eight inches high. Other residential structures should have numbers at least four inches high with a stroke width of 0.5 inches.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-119(a)
Each swinging entrance door to an individual apartment must have a deadbolt lock with a minimum throw (horizontal extension) of 5/8 of an inch, with the deadbolt operated by key from the outside and by turn-knob from the inside. Locks and installation are subject to specific approval of the Director. All exterior doors and door hinges, locks, and latches must be kept in working condition.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-119(c)
All swinging entrance doors to an individual apartment must either currently have a magnifying peephole, or must be provided with one which will provide a 180 degree viewing angle to allow the occupant to view the entrance area while the door is closed.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-119(d)
Locking devices must be provided for all patio and balcony sliding entrance doors and for all windows two stories or less above grade or accessible from a balcony. Security bars and jimmy plates are acceptable. The device and installation are subject to the approval of the Director, who shall coordinate approval with the Police Department.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-119(e)
In multi-family dwellings where the exterior entrance doors to the building are not secured, the entrance doors to laundry rooms, storage areas, and other similar areas in the building must be provided with the type of deadbolt lock described above, and tenants must be provided with access keys.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-119(f)
Every door available for exit must be openable from the inside, easily and without use of a key.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 11 §11-254(b)
Insect screens of at least sixteen mesh per inch must be provided from June 1 to October 15 each year as follows: for every door opening directly to the outdoors; for 50% of each window used for ventilation; and for all other openings unless specifically exempted or modified by the Director. Each hinged screen door must have a self-closing device in good working condition. No screens are required for dwelling units above the fifth floor, and screen doors are not required for the main entrance door of a multi-family dwelling.
The following requirements apply to occupancy of, or to leasing for occupancy, a dwelling, rooming house, rooming unit, multi-family dwelling, or portion thereof.
The supporting elements of the structure must be sound, showing no evidence of deterioration which would render them unable to carry the imposed loads as required by the Building code. Interior stairs must be constructed and maintained to be safe to use.
All interiors must be kept clean and free from accumulations of rubbish and garbage. All refuse must be properly kept in temporary storage facilities.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 12 §12-161
The responsibility for pest elimination lies with the owner of both single-tenant and multi-tenant buildings. Building owners are responsible for continued maintenance to keep buildings rodent and pest-free.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-121
All interior surfaces, including windows and doors, must be kept in good, clean, and sanitary condition. Any paint that is peeling, flaking, or chipped should be promptly removed, and the surfaces should be repainted. Paint used for interior surfaces must be lead free.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-120
Multi-family buildings, except those constructed originally for one or two families, must have the following readily visible signs in interior hallways and stairways to offer direction to specific dwelling units or floors:
- Primary Doors: All primary entrance doors into a dwelling unit must have permanent visible markings which identify that unit;
- Opposite Elevators: The wall directly facing an elevator exit, except the lobby exit, must have a permanent sign indicating the most direct route to each dwelling unit on that floor. The sign must have bold letters at least one-half inch high;
- Hallway Junctions: A similar sign is required at any junction of a hallway, except where the sign required under b) is visible from the junction; and
- Stairway Doors: The stairway side of a door leading from a stairway to a hallway must have a sign indicating the floor level or the identification numbers of the dwelling units on that floor level. The sign must have bold letters at least six inches high.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-122
The following requirements apply to the occupancy or lease of any dwelling unit.
Every unit must include the following:
- A dedicated room equipped with a water toilet and a sink for washing, distinct from the living areas, ensuring privacy.
- A private room with either a bathtub or a shower.
- A kitchen sink that is separate from the sink in the toilet room.
Shared bathrooms and toilet rooms must have a door with an interior locking device.
Every dwelling unit must be equipped with appropriately installed cooking and baking facilities. Additionally, the unit must have a refrigeration unit that can maintain an average temperature below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. All cooking equipment shall be maintained free from leaks and obstructions and kept functioning properly so as to be free from fire, health, and accident hazards. The occupant must keep all cooking equipment and facilities in clean and sanitary condition.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-123(e)-(g)
All required sinks, bathtubs, toilets, etc., must be properly connected either to a public water and sewer system or to an approved private water and sewer system. Kitchen sinks, lavatories, laundry facilities, bathtubs and showers must be supplied with hot and cold running water.
Read the code: International Property Maintenance Code §505.1
Water heating systems must be correctly installed and regularly maintained to ensure an ample supply of water at each required sink, lavatory, bathtub, shower, and laundry facility. The water temperature should be no lower than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. However, for fixtures equipped with scald prevention valves, the water temperature should be adjusted not to exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is prohibited to place a gas-burning water heater in a bathroom, toilet room, bedroom, or any enclosed space without sufficient combustion air. Additionally, an approved combination temperature and pressure-relief valve, along with a discharge pipe, must be properly installed and maintained for water heaters.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-126
Each dwelling must be equipped with heating facilities capable of maintaining a minimum room temperature of seventy (70) degrees Fahrenheit in all habitable rooms, bathrooms, and toilet rooms when the outside temperature is 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Building owners or operators are required to ensure that heating facilities are properly installed and maintained in good working order. Owners or operators must supply heat from September 15 to May 15. It is prohibited to use cooking appliances for space heating.
Exception: If the outdoor temperature falls below 14 degrees Fahrenheit, the minimum room temperature requirement may be waived, provided that the heating system is operating at its full capacity.
Installation and maintenance
Landlords are responsible for proper installation and maintenance of all facilities and common areas. This includes all required equipment, plumbing systems, heating equipment, electrical fixtures and outlets, etc.,
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-153
Occupants must keep all housing facilities clean and sanitary.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-156
Habitable spaces, hallways, corridors, laundry areas, bathrooms, toilet rooms and habitable basement areas must have a minimum clear ceiling height of at least 7 feet.
Read the code: International Property Maintenance Code §404.3
A living room must be at least 120 square feet, and a sleeping room for one occupant must have a minimum floor area of 70 square feet. If a bedroom has more than one occupant, a minimum of 50 square feet is needed for each person who will sleep in the room. ("Occupant" means "any individual living or sleeping in a building, or having possession of a space within a building.")
In a residence building or dwelling unit with 2 or more bedrooms, bedrooms must not be the sole means of access to other bedrooms or habitable spaces, nor should they serve as the only means of egress from other habitable spaces.
Each bedroom should have access to at least 1 toilet and sink without having to pass through another bedroom. Additionally, every bedroom within a dwelling unit must have access to at least 1 toilet and sink located on the same floor as the bedroom or an adjacent floor.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-123(b)
Light and ventilation
Every habitable room must have at least one window of approved size facing directly to the outdoors or to a court. Each habitable room must have a minimum window area that is 8% of the floor area of the room. Certain exterior walls and obstructions located within three feet of a window will prevent it from being included as part of the required window area.
Artificial light may be substituted in kitchens in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Building Code. Common hallways and stairways must be lighted at all times.
Read the code: International Property Maintenance Code §402
Each habitable room must have at least two separate and remote electrical outlets. Every bathroom must have at least one electrical outlet.
Every public hall, interior stairway, toilet room, kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, boiler room and furnace room must have at least one electric light fixture. Every bathroom and laundry room must have at least one electric outlet in addition to the electric light fixture.
Flexible cords (such as extension cords) must not be used for permanent wiring, or for running through doors, windows or cabinets. Flexible cords must not be concealed within wall, floors or ceilings.
Read the code: International Property Maintenance Code §605
Every habitable room must have at least one easily opened window. Except where mechanical ventilation is provided, the openable window area must equal at least 45% of the required window area. Bathrooms and toilet rooms must comply with the light and ventilation requirements for habitable rooms unless they have an approved ventilation system.
Read the code: International Property Maintenance Code §403
All dwellings, including rooming houses, rooming units, lodging houses and lodging units, must comply with the Fire Prevention sections of the Basic Building Code and the following requirements:
Cooking, heating, and water heating equipment and accessories must be kept free from leaks and obstructions and free from fire, health, and accident hazards. Installations and repairs must comply with Building Code and other laws. Portable cooking and heating equipment using flame are prohibited.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-123(f)
Smoke detectors must be installed by the owner of each multi-family dwelling unit in accordance with the County smoke detector law.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 11 §11-258
Responsibilities of occupants and owners
The occupant of a dwelling unit must keep clean and sanitary the part of the premises which he occupies, controls, or uses. Rubbish and garbage must be disposed of in a clean and sanitary manner by placing it in the required rubbish containers or garbage disposal facilities.
Read the code: International Property Maintenance Code §308
All occupants of dwelling units must keep the basic facilities such as cooking and refrigeration equipment, plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures, etc., clean and sanitary, and are responsible for using reasonable care in their proper use.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-123(e)
Every plumbing or electrical fixture or other basic facility furnished by the occupant must be properly installed and operated, kept clean and in good working condition, and free of defects, leaks, or obstruction.
Read the code: International Property Maintenance Code §504.1
An occupant who willfully destroys or impairs any equipment, facility, or part of the structure of a dwelling is guilty of a misdemeanor and is subject to the penalties provided in this Code. Normal deterioration and normal use and wear are not violations.
Read the code: International Property Maintenance Code §106.3
A single motor vehicle which is wrecked, dismantled, or not currently licensed may be kept in a wholly enclosed garage. The storage of any other wrecked, dismantled, or not currently licensed motor vehicle on the premises is prohibited.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-118(f)
Responsibilities mandated by this Code cannot be transferred or removed by a contract, lease, or other agreement.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-112
Every person who operates a rooming house or who occupies or leases to someone a rooming unit in a rooming house must comply with the provisions of the Housing Code, with the following exceptions and special provisions:
Where toilet and washing facilities are shared, there must be at least one toilet, wash basin, and bathtub or shower, properly connected to an approved water and sewer system and in good working condition, for every four rooms. They must be directly accessible from a common hall or passageway, not more than one story removed from any room sharing the facility, and may not be in a cellar.
Cooking is not permitted in any rooming unit of a rooming house, unless approved in the certificate of occupancy. Devices like coffee pots and microwaves are not considered cooking appliances.
Read the code: International Property Maintenance Code §403.3
The owner of a property is responsible for maintenance of the structures and exterior property areas. Occupants of a dwelling unit are responsible for keeping the area they occupy in clean, sanitary and safe condition. Premises that are not keeping in sanitary and safe conditions should not be occupied
Read the code: International Property Maintenance Code §301.2
Violations, notice, and penalties
Whenever the Director determines or has reasonable grounds to believe that a violation of the Housing Code has occurred, they are responsible for serving a notice to the individual responsible. The notice must adhere to the following requirements:
- It must be provided in written form.
- The notice must include the address of the property in question.
- A clear statement regarding the specific violation should be included.
- A correction order should be provided, allowing a reasonable period of time for the necessary repairs to be completed in order to achieve compliance.
- The property owner must be informed of their right to appeal.
- Information regarding the right to file a lien should also be included.
The notice can be delivered personally to the owner or occupant or sent via certified or first-class mail to the most recent known address. If the notice is returned undelivered, a copy of the notice must be prominently posted within or on the dwelling.
If the notice is not complied with, the Director may take action, including a proceeding at law or equity, against the person responsible and may, if appropriate, order the premises vacated.
Read the code: International Property Maintenance Code §106.3
A violation of the Housing Code is a misdemeanor. A person, firm, or corporation convicted of a violation will be fined a maximum of $500 or imprisoned for up to ninety days, or both. Each day that a violation continues after a notice has been served and not complied with is a separate offense.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 13 §13-111
Where the literal requirements of the Housing Code would cause undue hardship, a written application for an exception may be sent to the Director, stating the reason for the request. Exceptions are granted in writing and only under conditions that protect reasonable safety and sanitation. Exceptions are subject to review by the County Council.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 4 §4-119