Property Owner Ordinances

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS on the Martinsburg drug house/property owner ordinances.

What is this all about? Why does Martinsburg need these ordinances?

We are fighting an opioid epidemic. We can only be successful by using a multi-faceted strategy of enforcement, treatment, and prevention. These ordinances are a vital tool in shutting down drug houses, reclaiming our neighborhoods from disorder, and improving the quality of life in all Martinsburg communities.

Do the ordinances apply to only rental units and houses or to all property owners?

The ordinances apply to ALL Martinsburg property owners, of BOTH rental AND non-rental property. Every property owner should be responsible and accountable as a good neighbor in our community.

The Drug House Ordinance says that a property can be declared a “public nuisance” if there are two or more illegal incidents such as illegal drug activity or prostitution on the property within a 12 month period. I’m concerned that someone making a false complaint can get a property owner in trouble. Could this happen?

No. A complaint by itself alone is not enough to invoke the use of the ordinance. Illegal drug activity or prostitution must be documented either through arrests or the recovery of illegal drugs.

I’m a responsible landlord. I maintain my property. I screen and monitor my tenants. What if one of my tenants “slips through the cracks” and starts selling drugs on my property? As the owner, will I be automatically fined?

Absolutely not. Once a property owner is notified that a public nuisance exists, he or she has 30 days to take action to successfully abate the nuisance. No fines will be assessed unless the Martinsburg Municipal Court finds that the owner knowingly failed to implement reasonable and warranted abatement measures.

The Martinsburg Police Department and other city departments always assist responsible property owners in solving problems.

I own a house that is vacant. Does the ordinance require me to hire a watchman to sit on my property just because it’s not occupied?

No. The “watchman required” ordinance ONLY applies if a property owner FAILS to secure the building. If an owner properly secures the abandoned or vacant building the hiring of a watchman will never be required.

I appreciate MPD posting the ordinances for me to read but I still have some questions and concerns. Who can I call who will answer my questions?

Chief Maury Richards and Deputy Chief George Swartwood are always available to answer your questions and concerns regarding these ordinances, or any other police-related matter. You can call them directly—they don’t screen their calls. Chief Richards—304.264.2100 EXT 225. Deputy Chief Swartwood—304.264.2100 EXT 226. If they don’t pick up because they are out of the office, please leave a message. They promise to return your call within the next business day.