Citizen's Guide to Pesticide Enforcement/Complaints

To ensure pesticides are applied properly by trained and competent applicators, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) Pesticide Regulation Section (PRS):

  • regulates the distribution, sale, storage, use and disposal of pesticides; and,
  • establishes qualifications for the licensing of businesses and certification of persons applying or recommending pesticides or perfoming pest inspections,


MDA does not regulate matters involving contractual disputes between consumers and pest control firms.

Authority to Inspect Land, Facilities or Equipment

The Agriculture Article, Section 5-205, states that the Secretary of Agriculture may sample any pesticide and inspect any device, container, product, apparatus or equipment used or intended for use in pest control operations, any establishment from which pest control is conducted, and any pesticide applicationor treatment performed by or under the supervision of a certified applicator.

In addition, Section 15.05.01.18 A (12) of the Regulations Pertaining to the Pesticide Applicators Law states that failing to allow the Department to inspect or sample as provided in the law is grounds for issuing a civil penalty or suspending, revoking or denying a license, permit or certificate of any person.

Role of the Pesticide Inspector

  • Contact all pertinent individuals to conduct investigations and/or interviews.
  • Document incident information through maps, photographs, statements, pesticide labels, and on-site assessments, which are compiled into an investigative file.
  • Collect physical evidence such as soil, vegetation, and water samples to aid in the determination of violations.
  • Deliver samples to MDA's State Chemist Section to be analyzed for pesticide residues or to the Plant Protection Section for detection of disease, insect or pesticide damage.

Access to Information Gathered in an Investigation?

The Maryland Public Information Act, Maryland State Government Article10-611, et seq., gives the public the right to view case files once an investigation is closed. Therefore, information contained in a closed case file must be released to the public, upon written request.

Investigation Process

The goal of the Pesticide Regulation Section is to respond to the complainant within 24 hours of learning of an incident. However, there are many variables involved in an investigation that determine how long it will take to close a case. Some of the factors that delay the closure are complex lab analyses, the need to have a follow-up investigation, and backlog of legal cases under review. Because each case varies, it is impossible to provide a good estimate of how long it will take to achieve case closure. The top priority is to provide a complete and thorough investigation of any complaint.

After the inspector has gathered all of the necessary information related to an investigation, a Supervising Inspector reviews the file to determine the completeness of the documentation. After the initial review by the Supervising Inspector, the file is reviewed by the Case Review Officer for possible violations of the Maryland Pesticide Applicators Law or regulations. Once this review is complete, the staff forwards the case to the Chief of the Section for review for possible regulatory action.

In some instances no violations are noted and a report of findings is issued. However, if evidence is sufficient to prove a significant violation of the law, the Department can resolve the conflict by taking any of the following actions against the pest control business or pesticide applicator:

  • Notice of warning
  • Negotiated settlement agreement,
  • Informal conference before the Chief of the Pesticide Regulation Section,
  • Formal hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings,
  • Criminal action in court, or
  • Civil penalty.

Information regarding laboratory analysis performed on samples collected from a property can be shared with the owner while an investigation is underway, but some information can not be released until a case is closed. This is to insure that decisions on any potential regulatory action are not prejudicial.

Penalties For Violating The Maryland Pesticide Applicators Law or Regulations

Any person who violates any provision of the Pesticide Applicators Law is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, is subject to a fine of up to $1,000, or imprisonment not exceeding 60 days, or both.

In addition, a person who violates any provision of the law or regulations is subject to a civil penalty of not more than $2,500 for a first violation or $5,000 for each subsequent violation. Each day a violation occurs can be considered a separate violation. The total penalties imposed on a person for violations that result from the same set of facts and circumstances may not exceed $25,000. Violation of the law and regulations is also grounds for revocation, suspension or denial of a license, permit or certificate issued by MDA.

The Maryland Pesticide Applicators Law contains no provision for compensation to be made to individuals. All civil penalties collected by MDA go into the State's General Fund and are not used by MDA. Private civil action would be required in most instances to recover damages.

The Pesticide Regulation Section will provide notification when a decision has been made as to whether further regulatory action will be taken, and of any final action taken. Parties directly involved in a complaint can receive information by contacting the Pesticide Regulation Section at 410-841-5710.

MDA's function is to ensure compliance with the State pesticide law and to deal with the licensed firm or certified applicator, which is regulated by MDA. MDA does not assist the complainant with preparing a civil suit against the pest control firm or applicator.

For information about a specific complaint, call the Pesticide Regulation Section at 410-841-5710 and ask to speak with the inspector in charge of the investigation, the Supervising Inspector or the Case Review Officer.

If you have any questions not addressed here, please to call the MDA, Pesticide Regulation Section at 410-841-5710.

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