“County compels 91-year-old woman to tear down home wheelchair ramp”

Following the law wherever it leads in Maryland: “Prince George’s County filed a legal case against a Laurel couple in their 90s over a wheelchair ramp in their own home. To avoid legal trouble, the elderly couple’s son tore down the ramp, trapping the woman in her own home. The county permitting department said the family had no permit to build a wheelchair ramp in front of their own home.” [WJLA]


  • It’s good that they direct their efforts at the most dangerous criminals first. Would you rather they prosecute innocent gangbangers instead?

    We can only hope they have enough funding to carry on.

  • Shame on them! Did they even offer another option other than to tear it down & get a permit? What’s disgusting is the fact that either:

    A. someone who either lives by them or has to drive by their house regularly called them and complained about it or

    B. the county workers (permit office, etc.) have too much time on their hands that they’re-gonna be looking for small crap like this b/c it’s probably the most excitement they’ve had all year.

    I gotta wonder if the threat of a lawsuit was the first notice/threat to the couple b/c if that’s the case, the couple should absolutely fight the lawsuit. If this was there 5th notice & they ignored all of them….well now, that’s a different story. Should the couple get a permit? Absolutely! I would think any reasonable judge would give them a slap on their wrist (seeing as they’re in their 90’s AND that they’ve filed the paperwork for the permit) & then that’d be that. Sadly though, I have a very bad feeling that if the permit office is acting like this, maybe the courts (judges) are like that too.

    This is the time for one of those nationally-known attorneys (like a Gloria Allred, Alan Dershowitz or Joe diGenova) to step up and take this case pro bono. Fight this ridiculous threat! I’m not a lawyer, but I waould think they could possibly counter-sue for age discrimination considering the couple is in their 90’s and it’s evident she must have a ramp to be able to leave her home. They could then let the court know how many doctor appts she’d missed, etc. Anything having to do with their health. Again, I’m not an attorney, but I hope that our legal system could, would &should help this couple. Sending prayers and positive their way!l

  • Wow. The heartlessness of some bureaucrats.

    I deal with state bureaucrats for a living. They do more than just follow the law where it goes–they follow their own capriciousness to where it goes.

  • An enterprising DoJ could offer a deal to Montgomery County: either restore a ramp to the 90-year-old homeowners immediately, or see their businesses and local governments face an open-ended blizzard of the most nit-picking ADA compliance lawsuits (“permanent revolution”, as Trotsky might have put it). Professional plaintiffs could also be shipped in from around the country, reassured even by their usual detractors that they are doing God’s work.

    • Prince George’s County, not Montgomery County.

  • When they said PG County was a “livable community,” I thought they were setting the bar a little low, but now I see that they were actually setting it rather high.

    (Seriously, that’s their motto: https://patch.com/maryland/collegepark/whats-in-a-name-9)

  • the county employees are COMPLETE morons, however, the son being in the construction business should have known better than to construct without a permit. I wonder how many other jobs he has done on the QT?

    • wickets,

      Or the son was in the construction business in an area that didn’t require permits for a ramp.

      Here where I live, few of the cities require permits for ramps, only that they are built to be ADA compliant. The County surrounding those cities requires a permit for such ramps.

      In principle I agree that the son should have checked for the need of a permit, but then again, if you aren’t familiar with the PG County requirements and you live in an area that lets people work on their own home and properties without government oversight for every bit of work done, you don’t even think about a permit.

      All you are thinking about is helping your mom and dad.

  • “Weeks later, Haitham Hijazi, the county inspections director, wrote a letter admitting ‘something obviously went awry’…”

    No, it didn’t, and that’s the problem. We’re overlawyered to the point that this was the “correct” outcome. One would think after nine decades on this earth, they’d earned the ability to decide for themselves what risks they consider prudent.

  • And those same authorities would in an instant sell a lien on the property if granny owed one red cent of unpaid real estate tax – then sell her home out from under her on the (ADA-compliant) courthouse steps.

    • Why in the world would you think that a courthouse is compliant? Government buildings, particularly old government buildings are the least likely to comply. After all, those making the law gave them a pass.
      For example: section 508 has been applicable to the federal government, first as guidelines, then as requirements since 1986. Yet today there are internally developed portals, that they require the employees to use which do not comply with the 2000 technical specs and the 2017 version is right out. 😀 So to recap, it’s been a set of required technical specifications since mid 2001, six months after publication, at least with the agency I work for, tools are distributed with the browser to perform checks, and yet the developers using those browsers never even bother to check until someone asks them “how in the heck am I supposed to use this image map”? Those are the easy ones, modifying a building for wheelchair access? Don’t make me laugh. Putting braille directly on touch activated buttons? That really did make me laugh. Fortunately they weren’t launch controls. 😀

  • It is interesting to hear the idea that the son “should have” gotten a permit. That’s exactly how the bureaucracies want us to think. That allows them to be absolved of the moral consequences of their actions.

    But even on its own terms the “should” argument fails. You can bet your bottom dollar that this bureaucracy has bent the rules to help out some favored interest. Which means, of course, that following these silly rules (or I should say silly in this case) isn’t the categorical imperative that they are making it out to be in this case. The smartest thing Alinsky ever said was to hold people to the standards they set for others. It has a real clarifying effect.

    Just imagine taking the Alinsky approach to zero tolerance policies–this time with respect to how teachers are disciplined–then ask, well, is it fair to treat kids differently? Or with cops–punch a cop, and you’re getting charged–why wasn’t that the case when the Baltimore cop was beating the crap out of the citizen? Why didn’t the other cop arrest the cop who was doing the illegal bearing? And if you really want to get radical–ask the really hard question–if cops have the right to defend themselves against a beating (often with deadly force) why don’t citizens have the same right when confronted by a cop illegally beating the,?

  • I find it highly improbable that the ramp needed to be permitted. There’s no electrical, plumbing, or mechanical work. It adds very little to the footprint of the house. Technically, it’s not structural. It’s not a commercial property. It’s not a permanent ramp. It involved no concrete work. It’s not near a setback.

    I’m mystified b as to what permit it would need.

    • My Sister lives in that County. The needed permit is the “Mother May I” permit. A bunch of petty power bureaucrats think they run everything. She was cited a $50 fine for not getting a permit for her son’s basketball hoop. Because they painted a foul circle in their driveway and shadowed where the movable hoop went it was considered a permanent structure.

      • A moveable hoop isn’t a permanent structure. Too bad fraud and conversion laws don’t appear to cover government bureaucrats who extort money in situations like that.

  • Maryland is rivaling California and New York as the state with the least respect for private property rights.

  • I actually wrote the PG County folks. Here’s the response in full:

    Thank you for reaching out to DPIE about this story so that we can explain our perspective and clarify some inaccuracies in previous reporting.

    As the building code officials for Prince George’s County, it is our responsibility to ensure anything constructed within the County is safe and adheres to local, state and international building code standards. This is accomplished by our permitting process. The permit application is submitted, reviewed by structural engineers, approved and the construction is then inspected to ensure safety. Our primary goal is to ensure the safety of every citizen through the permitting and code enforcement process.

    In this particular case, an inspector saw a ramp in the front of a home, checked permits and determined that it was unpermitted and there had been no safety inspections. This unpermitted construction of the ramp is a violation of Prince George’s County code that was established by lawmakers to ensure that erected structures, such as decks, building additions and ramps are safe because they comply with local, state and international building code standards. Without the proper plans and inspections, there is no way to ensure the ramp is properly anchored, has necessary footings, is properly tied down, has adequate railings, has proper slope and meets all American with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. The inspector then contacted the homeowner via mail, as is the standard procedure, and asked them to comply with the permit requirement of plan submission, review and final inspections to ensure the ramp’s safety – or remove it.

    For over 10 months, the agency reached out to the homeowners’ adult son numerous times to discuss helping him obtain the permit. Agency personnel, including a permit supervisor, offered to assist him in completing the paperwork if he would come to DPIE’s Largo office with the necessary documents. The son never did that and said he wanted a waiver because he felt he should not have to get a permit because he was planning to move his parents to an assisted living facility.

    When the violation was not abated, the issue became a court matter. The homeowners were notified by the court via mail. The parents reached an agreement with the County to end the court case. Meanwhile, DPIE staff continued efforts to get the son to obtain a permit for the ramp. He still did not do so. Instead of working with our staff to obtain the proper permit and safety inspections, he opted to dismantle the ramp. At no time did anyone from this agency remove his ramp. Until he tore it down, DPIE employees offered him assistance to get it permitted so that it could stay put. Our department director, Dr. Haitham Hijazi, assigned an associate director to go to the house and encourage the son to get the permit and to again offer our agency’s assistance in obtaining it, but by the time he arrived, the ramp was removed.

    It is important to note that the process to get the permit could have been completed and the permit issued within a few hours. At no time did DPIE staff threaten his parents or remove the ramp. The son opted to do that instead of following the process to obtain a permit and safety inspections for the ramp. In this case, as in any other, the concern is for safety by ensuring that the ramp was built to recognized local, state and international building code standards. These standards are meant to ensure the structures are safe. In this case there was more than 10 months from the initial notice of violation and several attempts from our agency to assist; instead the ramp was removed.

    We hope this clears up any misunderstanding.

    Please feel free to contact us again if you need additional information.


    Avis Thomas-Lester

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