Skip Navigation
DHCA logo
Smoke Alarm Law
English / Spanish (Español)

Decisions and Orders for All Miscellaneous Cases

This page contains summaries of Decisions and Orders for miscellaneous cases made by the Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affiars (COLTA).  To view the summary, click on the Case Number.  To view the complete Decision and Order, click on the case number contained within the summary.

Case # Case Name Date Order Issued Prevailing Party/Award
33165 Sandra Perlmutter vs. Alexia Voyles and Lena Jones Sept. 25, 2012 Tenant $2,600.00
31274 Abrahmas vs. Mancuso May ,7 2010 Tenant $1,452.05
30581 Broadus vs. Zheng Aug. 5, 2009 Landlord Dismissed
29627 Nseyo/McElroy vs. Quispe/Ledezma Dec. 17, 2008 Tenant $5,140.00
26025 Shady Grove Townhouse Tenants Apr. 4, 2006 Landlord Dismissed
13286 Colespring Plaza Tenants Assoc. vs. Plaza Apts., LLC Jan. 15, 2004 & Apr. 16, 2004 Tenant $24,489.00
25070 Fraser vs. Tubelis Mar. 26, 2004  
24804 Karl Wollin vs. Leon Trager Aug. 4, 2003 Tenant $1,076.09
24441 Karl Wollin vs. Leon Trager Dec. 23, 2002 Tenant
11770 Heidi Forester and Amy Dunning vs. Joan Sterling July 9, 2002 Landlord Dismissed
11846 Seena Sussman vs. Farimah Danesh Nov. 1, 2001 Tenant no monetary award
10588 Michael & Susan White vs. Frank & Audrey Martino Mar. 19, 2001 Tenant $220.00
9936 Shirley & Roland Israel vs. Fay Fan Lee June 8, 2000 Tenant $1,100.00

 

Case Summaries


Arrow, up icon Sandra Perlmutter vs. Alexia Voyles and Lena Jones

Case #  33165
Date Order Issued  September 25, 2012
Subject  Mold Remediation

Summary of Complaint
Sandra Perlmutter (“Complainant”) filed a complaint against her current landlords Alexia Voyles and Lena Jones (“Respondents”), in which she alleged that the Respondents were trying to assess the amount of $2,600.00 against her current security deposit posted at the Property for repairs relative to a mold remediation performed at the Property during her tenancy.

The Complainant was seeking an Order from the Commission for the Respondents to absorb the cost of such repairs and absolver her of any responsibility for the claimed payment.

The Respondents contended that the Complainant was negligent in the care and/or maintenance of the Property and that her actions caused them to incur a cost for mold remediation for which she would have been held responsible.

Findings
The Commission found that: (1) the Complainant paid the Respondents a security deposit in the amount of $2,800.00 at the commencement of the tenancy (February 2008); (2) on January 19, 2012, the attorney for the Respondents advised the Complainant that the amount of $2,600.00 was going to be assessed against her current security deposit to cover for the cost of mold remediation performed in the bathrooms; and, (3) the Respondents did not provide enough probative evidence that the damage claimed was due to the Complainant’s negligence; absent that evidence, mold remediation was clearly the Respondents’ responsibility.

The Order
The Commission ordered the Respondents to absorb the payment of the mold remediation since it was their responsibility to fix it.  Furthermore, the Commission ordered that the amount of $2,600.00 could not be assessed against the Complainant’s security deposit at the end of the tenancy.


Arrow, up icon Abrahams vs. Mancuso

Case #  31274
Date Order Issued  May 7, 2010
Subject  Lease Violation

Summary of Complaint
Janice Abrahams ("Complainant"), filed a complaint alleging that her former landlord, Kim Mancuso ("Respondent"): (1) charged her an additional $129.00 per month, in violation of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract; (2) refused to refund a $650.00 rent overpayment for the month of August 2009; and (3) failed to credit her security deposit with the proper amount of accrued interest after the termination of her tenancy.

The Complainant was seeking an Order from the Commission that the Respondent refund $1,452.05 which sum represents: (1) $774.00 overpayment of rent from January through June 2009; (2) $650.00 rent overpayment for August 2009; and (3) $28.05 accrued interest on her security deposit.

Findings
The Commission found that: (1) the Complainant was a participant in the Housing Opportunities Commission's (HOC) Housing Choice Voucher program whereby the HOC paid a portion of the Complainant's rent; (2) the Respondent accepted payments monthly from the Complainant and HOC, per the HAP contract; (3) the Respondent signed a document with HOC that stated: ".There will be no other payments made to me by the tenant other than the amount stated on the Housing Assistance Payment contract ($1,842.00) to be sent to me by the Housing Opportunities Commission. I will not collect any side payments from the tenant."; (4) the Respondent had a clause in the lease agreement that stipulated the Complainant would pay an additional $129.00 per month for rent; (5) the Respondent collected $774.00 in additional payments from the Complainant from January through June 2009; (6) on July 1, 2009 HOC informed the Complainant and Respondent that the Complainant's portion of the rent would change from $447.00 to $866.00 effective August 1, 2009; (7) the Complainant paid $866.00 rent for August 2009; (8) on August 16, 2009, HOC notified the Complainant and Respondent that the Complainant's portion of the rent was changed to $216.00 effective August 1, 2009; (9) HOC paid the Respondent $1,626.00 rent for August 2009 which resulted in a $650.00 overpayment by the Complainant; (10) the Respondent's placing a clause in the lease that was contrary to her HAP contract with HOC caused a defective tenancy per Section 29-1 of the Montgomery County Code, 2001, as amended (County Code); (11) the Respondent's failure to pay the proper amount of interest on the Complainant's security deposit ($28.05), in violation of Section 8-203 (e)(4) of the Real Property Article, Annotated Code of Maryland caused a defective tenancy.

The Order
The Commission ordered the Respondent to pay the Complainant $1,452.05 which sum represents the Complainant's overpayment of rent ($1,424.00) plus accrued interest on her security deposit ($28.05).


Arrow, up icon Broadus vs. Zheng

Case #  30581
Date Order Issued  August 5, 2009
Subject  Reduced Value of Leasehold Property

Summary of Complaint
Nyasa Broadus ("Complainant"), filed a complaint alleging that her former landlords, Andy Zheng and Kevin Zheng ("Respondents"), failed to provide her with a 5-bedroom house as promised, which substantially reduced the value of her tenancy.  The Respondents were present at the hearing but the Complainant failed to appear.

The Order
The Commission DISMISSED this case with prejudice based on the Complainant's failure to appear.


Arrow, up icon Nseyo and McElroy vs. Quispe and Ledezma

Case #  29627
Date Order Issued  December 17, 2008
Subject  Improper Rent Increase and Reduced Value of Rental Property

Summary of Complaint
Ruth Nseyo and Mary McElroy ("Tenants") filed a complaint alleging that their landlords, Ciro Quispe and Rebeca Ledezma ("Landlords"): (1) without proper notice increased their rent by $610.00 a month midway through their 12-month tenancy, which constituted a breach of the lease and increased the rent more than once in a twelve month period, in violation of Section 29-54(a), Landlord-Tenant Relations, of the Montgomery County Code, 2001, as amended ("County Code"); (2) failed to make needed and necessary repairs to the Property, in violation of Section 29-30(a)(3) of the County Code; and (3) rented them two bedrooms that were subsequently condemned by the Department's Division of Housing and Code Enforcement ("Code Enforcement"), which substantially reduced the value of the rented property for the remainder of their tenancy.

The Tenants were seeking an Order from the Commission for the Landlords to: (1) refundall improper rent increases they paid, $610.00 a month for five months, January 2008 through May 2008, for a total amount of $3,050.00, and (2) refund a portion of rent paid from May 16, 2008, the date two basement bedrooms in the Property were condemned by Code Enforcement, until the termination of their tenancy, July 31, 2008.

The Landlords contended that: (1) the Tenants agreed to and paid the mid-termrent increase; (2) they made all necessary repairs to the Property; and (3) they were unaware that the basement bedrooms, which were subsequently condemned by Code Enforcement, did not comply with Chapter 26, Housing and Building Maintenance Standards, of the Montgomery County Code ("Housing Code"), when the Property was rented to the Tenants.

Findings
The Commission found that: (1) The Landlords substantially breached the lease by improperly increasing the Tenants' rent by $610.00 a month for the final 5 months of the lease term, which constituted a violation of Section 29-54 of the County Code and was an attempt by the Landlords to coerce the Tenants into paying a higher rent under the threat of eviction; and (2) the condemnation of the basement bedrooms as unsafe and unfit for human habitation not only reduced the number of usable bedrooms in the Property from 5 to 3, but required the Tenants to use the dining room and the living room as sleeping areas, a purpose for which they were not designed or intended, which reduced the value of the Property by 50% for two and one-half (2 ½) months, from May 16, 2008, until the termination of the tenancy, July 31, 2008.

The Order
The Commission ordered the Landlords to pay the Tenants $5,140.00, which amount represents damages incurred by the Tenants as a result of the improper notice of rent increase ($2,500.00), plus a refund of 50% of the rent paid by the Tenants for the period May 16, 2008 through July 31, 2008 ($2,640.00).


Arrow, up icon Shady Grove Townhouse Tenants

Case #  26025
Date Order Issued  April 4, 2006
Subject  Relocation Assistance

Summary of Complaint
Between May 16, 2005, and June 20, 2005, 12 former tenants at Shady Grove Square Townhouses ("Complainants"), filed complaints alleging that their former landlord, Redline Express LLC, ("Respondent") failed to pay them the equivalent of two months rent as relocation assistance after the Respondent issued each of them a 120-day notice that their townhouses were being sold to the public. It was undisputed that the Respondent refused to provide relocation assistance.  The tenants aaleged that such relocation assistance was required by §53A-6(c) of the Montgomery County Tenant Displacement Act, County Code §53A (the "Act").

The Respondent asserted that it was not required to provide relocation assistance because the Complainants' rental units do not fit within the definition set forth in §53A-2(e) of the Act which provides that for the purpose of the Act, "Rental housing means a multiple family dwelling, or a group of multiple family dwellings operated as one entity, with a total of at least 4 rental units."

The Commission determined that pursuant to Section 53A-2(a) of the Act, Convert and conversion mean, in addition to other non-applicable definitions, "any other act that ends the use of the property as rental housing."  Clearly, the sale of the 43 townhouse units at Shady Grove Square ("SGS") ends their use as rental housing.  However, the fundamental question before the Commission is whether or not the 43 townhouses at SGS meet the definition of "Rental housing," as defined in Section 53A-2(e) of the Act which states, "Rental housing means a multiple-family dwelling, or a group of multi-family dwellings operated as one entity, with a total of at least 4 units."

The Commission further noted that Section 59-A-2.1, Definitions, of the Montgomery County Zoning Ordinance defines a townhouse as follows:

Dwelling unit, townhouse: One of a group of 3 or more one-family dwelling units attached to and divided from each other by a vertical party wall. Each townhouse must have a minimum of 2 direct entrances from the outside, either on the front and rear or front and side. This definition does not include a "dwelling unit, one-family attached," as defined in this section.

Findings
Although the 43 townhouses at SGS were operated for many years by the original owner, Redland/WHM, LP, as one rental entity for which they obtained a Rental Facility License annually from the Department, it does not change the fact that the units were built as individual townhouses.  As such, the 43 townhouses do not meet the definition of "Rental housing" because they are not "a multiple-family dwelling, or a group of multi-family dwellings."

The Commission further found that where the statutory language is plain and free from ambiguity and expresses a definite and simple meaning, the Commission is not to look beyond the words of the statute itself and is required to apply the statute's plain meaning.   See Board of License Commissioners for Charles County v. Toye, 354 Md. 116, 729 A.2d 407 (1999).

Finally, the Commission found that no violation of Chapter 53-A of the Montgomery County Code had occurred on the part of the Respondent, no defective tenancies existed, and the Respondent was not required to pay the Complainants, or any other former tenant at SGS, relocation assistance equal to 2 months rent.

The Order
The Commission dismissed the complaints.


Arrow, up icon Colespring Plaza Tenants Association vs. Plaza Apartments LLC

Case #  13286
Date Order Issued  January 15, 2004 (Part I); April 16, 2004 (Part II)
Subject  Rent Increase Notices/Tenants Associations

The Colespring PlazaTenants Association (the "Complainants") filed a complaint with OLTA on March 14, 2002, against Plaza Apartments LLC (the "Respondent") alleging that a rent increase was excessive.  Although the original complaint did not raise the issue of the validity of the rent increase notices themselves, this issue was raised and discussed with both parties during meetings held in April and May, 2002 by the OLTA staff, and also in the correspondence on the complaint sent to the Respondent.  On January 31, 2003, OLTA sent notice to both parties stating that the issue of the validity of the rent increase notices was one of the questions that the Commission would be asked to resolve.  By the time the complaint came for a hearing before the Commission, 59 tenants had given signed authorizations permitting the Complainants to represent them in the proceedings before the Commission.

The notices of rent increase sent by Respondent did not state the percentage by which the new rent exceeded the former rent, and did not state that the tenant had the right to ask OLTA to review any rent increase that the tenant considered excessive.

The Commission held public hearings on June 12 and September 14, 2003.  On January 15, 2003, the Commission issued its "Decision and Order Part I", which allowed the record to remain open for 45 days so that additional documentation could be filed.   Among other things, the Commission ruled that the rent increase notices were defective and that each of the 59 tenants who were a part of the case must submit an affidavit within 30 days that showed that the tenant had received a defective rent increase notice and had paid the increased rent.

Subsequently, the Complainants submitted 32 affidavits from 29 households; they also submitted affidavits from 2 new tenants who were not part of the original group of 59.  After review of all the documents and legal arguments submitted by both parties, the Commission issued its "Decision and Order Part II" on April 16, 2003, ruling that the rent increase notices were defective and that certain tenants were entitled to a full refund of the rent increase that they had paid.

In its "Decision and Order Part II" t he Commission ruled that it did not need to hold a hearing on each tenant's claim individually and allow the Respondent to cross-exam each tenant individually because under the circumstances and proceedings in this case there were no facts in dispute at this stage.  The Commission ruled that 2 tenant claims were denied because the tenants were not part of the original group of 59 whose claims were part of the proceeding before the Commission in June and September, 2003; and that the claims of 24 tenants who were part of the group of 59 were denied because those tenants did not submit any affidavits.  The Commission denied 2 more claims because the evidence showed that the tenants received valid rent increase notices.  Finally the Commission ruled that the 28 tenants who submitted proper affidavits were entitled to a refund of $24, 489 in rent increases because the notices they received were defective. Accordingly, the Commission ordered the Respondent to pay refunds of $24, 489 to the affected tenants within 30 days.


Arrow, up icon Fraser vs. Tubelis

Case #  25070
Date Order Issued  March 26, 2004
Subject  Representation by Third Parties

William Fraser (the "Complainant") filed a complaint against Oto and Carol Tubelis (the "Respondents") and the matter was set for a public hearing before the Commission.  The Respondents reside in California and declined to attend the hearing, asking that an agent act as their representative.  The agent who attended the hearing was not an attorney licensed to practice in Maryland.

The Commission found that Maryland law prohibits anyone who is not an attorney from appearing on behalf of someone else before a "quasi-judicial" administrative body such as the Commission.

The Commission ruled that the agent appearing on behalf of the Respondents was only allowed to testify as a witness, and could not give any arguments or ask any questions.

The Commission issued an Interim Order that the Respondents either appear in person to represent themselves or hire a duly-licensed attorney as their representative.


Arrow, up icon Wollin v. Trager

Case #  24804
Date Order Issued  August 4, 2003
Subject  Breach of Lease

On October 31, 2002, Karl Wollin (the "Complainant"), filed a formal complaint with the the Department in which he alleged that his landlord, Leon Trager (the "Respondent"), the owner of the Property who lives in a separate accessory apartment unit within the Property: (1) failed to pay his portion of the shared electric bill, which constitutes a breach of the lease agreement; (2) failed to remove his patio furniture from an area of the rear yard controlled by the Complainant; (3) charged him for mulching along the driveway; (4) charged him for damage to the foliage caused by deer; (5) charged him for heating the pool in July 2002 even though neither he nor his family used it; and (6) charged him for cable services he did not want or use.

After holding a public hearing on May 28, 2003, and extending the time period to issue this Decision and Order, the Commission found: (1)
the Complainant's charge that the Respondent was not authorized to use the patio next to the pool is rejected; (2) the Complainant is responsible for one-half of the full gas bill for July 2002; (3) the Complainant does not owe the Respondent for the cost of premium cable services; (4) on the issue of spraying for deer, although the lease does not specify with certainty what is covered by the term "ground maintenance," over the course of the lease, the Respondent demanded, and Complainant agreed, to be responsible for spraying foliage to protect against deer; and (5) the Complainant is entitled to a refund for excess electricity usage caused by combining the two apartments; from evidence derived from the Complainant's testimony and post-hearing submissions, that sum is $1,076.09.

In view of the foregoing, the Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs hereby Orders the Respondent pay the Complainant $1,076.09, which sum represents the actual electric consumption used by the Respondent in his apartment.


Arrow, up icon Wollin vs. Trager

Case #  24441
Date Order Issued  December 23, 2002
Subject  Breach of Lease

On May 9, 2002, Karl Wollin (the "Complainant"), current tenant at 7709 Brickyard Road, Potomac, Maryland (the "Property"), in Montgomery County, Maryland, filed a formal complaint with the Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs within the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, (the "Department"), in which he alleged that his landlord, Leon Trager (the "Respondent"), the owner of the Property who lives in a separate accessory apartment unit (the "Apartment") within the Property: (1) stopped allowing a Special Education Transportation Service bus from the Montgomery County Public Schools ("MCPS") to come onto the driveway of the Property to pick up his wheelchair bound physically disabled son, which constitutes a substantial breach of the five (5) year lease agreement; (2) failed to clean the carpeting in the basement of the Property which contains mold and mildew caused by a water leak, in violation of the lease and Chapter 26, Housing and Building Maintenance Standards, of the Montgomery County Code, 1994, as amended ("Housing Code"); (3) failed to pay his portion of the shared electric bill, which constitutes a breach of the lease agreement; and (4) failed to remove his patio furniture from an area of the rear yard.

Although there were four separate allegations contained in the complaint, at their August 8, 2002 meeting, the Commission was presented with only two of those allegations - the MCPS bus issue and the utility issue - and the Commission chose to assert jurisdiction over only one of those issues - the denial by the Respondent of access onto the Property by the MCPS Special Education Transportation Service bus.  Therefore, although the Commission Panel took testimony and evidence presented by the parties at the public hearing on October 8, 2002, regarding all four of the allegations raised in the Complainant's complaint, upon review of the County Code and the procedures contained therein, the Commission Panel concluded that it had no jurisdiction to adjudicate and decide any issue other than the issue regarding the MCPS school bus.

After holding a public hearing on October 8, 2002, the Commission found that:

  1. The use and enjoyment of the driveway at the Property transferred from the Respondent to the Complainant with the Lease, and therefore, so long as the Complainant does not use the driveway for some unlawful purpose, the Complainant is entitled to use it for purposes related to his tenancy, including daily access by the MCPS Special Education Transportation Service bus to pick up and drop off the Complainant's son;
  2. Should the driveway be damaged in excess of ordinary wear and tear by the Complainant, his family, guests, employees, trades people or the MCPS Special Education Transportation Service bus, the Respondent will be within his right to file an action for damages against the Complainant, or pursuant to § 8‑203, "Security Deposits," of the Real Property Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, 1999, as amended, assess the cost of such repairs against the Complainant's security deposit at the termination of the tenancy.  However, as of the date of the hearing, no such damage in excess of ordinary wear and tear had occurred to the driveway; and,
  3. The Respondent's refusal to allow the Complainant to use the driveway for MCPS Special Education Transportation Service bus service constitutes a breach of the Lease, and had created a defective tenancy.

Based on the above, the Commission ordered that the Respondent must: (1) within 10 days notify the Complainant and the MCPS Special Education Transportation Service, in writing, that they may access the driveway at the Property for the purpose of picking up and dropping off the Complainant's son; and (2) provide a copy of the referenced notice to the Department and the Commission.


Arrow, up icon Forster and Dunning vs. Sterling

Case #  11770
Date Order Issued  July 9, 2002
Sibject  Failure to offer a 2-year lease.

On July 11, 2001, Heidi Forster and Amy Dunning (the "Tenants"), former tenants at 4808 Moorland Lane, #311, Bethesda, Maryland (the "Condominium"), a then licensed condominium unit at the Christopher Condominiums in Montgomery County, Maryland, filed a formal complaint with the Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs in which they alleged that Joan Sterling (the "Landlord"), owner of the Condominium: (1) failed to offer them the option of signing a 2-year lease agreement at the commencement of their lease term, in violation of Section 29-26(a) of the County Code; and (2) failed to obtain a Rental Facility License prior to offering the Condominium for rent, in violation of Section 29-16 of the County Code.  As a result, they alleged that they incurred expense to vacate the condominium after only one year when the Landlord returned from out-of-state and moved back into the Condominium.  The Tenants were seeking an Order from the Commission for the Landlord to pay them "reasonable damages incurred by tenants, including but not limited to, moving costs and rent differential for a comparable unit in downtown Bethesda for one year," totaling $3,807.00.  On or about October 17, 2001 , the Tenants amended their damage claim to include $241.50 in lost wages on the day they had to move - $103.35 for Ms. Forester and $138.15 for Ms. Dunning - which raised the total damage award they were seeking from the Commission to $4,048.50.

After determining that the complaint was not susceptible to conciliation, the Commission scheduled a public hearing, which commenced on May 9, 2002 , and concluded on that date.  At the hearing, the Complainants amended their complaint and withdrew their claim for moving expenses ($300.00) and the cost of relocating gas utility service ($40.00), thus reducing the award they were seeking from the Commission to $3,708.50.

On July 9, 2002, the Commission issued its Decision and Order in which it determined that:  (1) pursuant to Section 29-26(a) of the County Code, at the time the lease was signed, the Landlord had an obligation to provide the Tenants with a written statement explaining that she had a reasonable cause for not offering them an initial lease term of 2 years, but she failed do so, thus causing a defective tenancy; (2) under the circumstances of this case, there are two potential types of relief available to the Tenants: (a) an extension of the lease for a second one-year term, or (b) an award of actual damages or loss incurred by the Tenants, not to exceed $2,500.  In this case, because the Tenants had already relocated and signed a new lease for another condominium unit in the same building, the only relief that was available to them was actual damages or loss; (3) in order to prove actual damages caused by the defective tenancy, the Tenants would have had to show actual monetary loss or damage directly stemming from the defective tenancy, but they failed to do so; (4) based on the fact that the Tenants testified that they were willing to become month- to-month tenants and stay for less than two years, and that they would have moved into the Landlord's Condominium even if they had been properly informed in writing that their Lease would be for only one-year, the Commission found that the Tenants suffered no actual damages or loss due to the defective tenancy because they would have incurred expenses associated with moving to a new unit even if the Landlord had complied with Section 29-26(a) of the County Code and attached a reasonable cause statement to the lease agreement.

The Commission also determined that although the Landlord failed to obtain a Rental Facility License prior to offering the Condominium for rent to the Tenants, the Tenants failed to prove that they suffered any actual damage or loss as a result. The Commission rejected the Tenants' argument that had the Landlord been properly licensed, she would have been aware of her obligations under the County Code , and found that the issuance of a Rental Facility License by the Department of Housing and Community Affairs does not guarantee compliance with the County Code by a landlord.  Furthermore, the Commission found that if the Landlord had been aware of her obligations under the County Code , she still would not have offered the Tenants a 2-year lease, but instead would have attached a "reasonable cause" statement to the Lease.

In summation, the Commission determined that although the Landlord created a defective tenancy by failing to attach a reasonable cause statement to the Tenants' lease agreement, and although she failed to obtain a Rental Facility License before renting them the Condominium, the Tenants failed to demonstrate that they suffered actual damages or loss as a result, and therefore, Case No. 11770, Heidi Forster and Amy Dunning v. Joan Sterling, was DISMISSED.


Arrow, up icon Sussman vs. Danesh

Case #  11846
Date Order Issued  November 1, 2001
Subject  Lease Agreement

On August 7, 2000, Seena Sussman (Tenant) filed a complaint in which she alleged that Farimah Danesh (Landlord), on August 13, 2001, without cause, issued her a notice to vacate the Property nine months before the expiration of the lease renewal term, which constituted a substantial breach of the lease agreement.   The Landlord contended that the Tenant failed to renew the lease in a timely fashion and therefore became a month-to-month tenant, leaving her within her rights to issue a thirty day notice to vacate.

After holding a public hearing, the Commission found that: (1) the Landlord and Tenant both signed and initialed the addendum to the lease agreement which contained a clause allowing the Tenant to renew the lease for a third year at the "sole discretion of the Tenant" ; (2) the Tenant did exercise this option in a timely fashion; and (3) the Landlord's issuance of a notice to vacate after the Tenant exercised her rights under the lease agreement constitutes a substantial breach of the lease agreement and created a defective tenancy.

The Commission ordered the Landlord to: (1) issue a written notice to the Tenant rescinding the outstanding notice to vacate and advising her that the lease has been renewed until July 9, 2002; (2) dismiss any and all complaints filed in the District Court of Maryland against the Tenant alleging that she is a Tenant Holding Over; (3) give written notification to First American Registry, Metro Check and Property owners' Exchange, Inc. that the "Tenant Holding Over" case filed against the Tenant in the District Court was filed in error and all references to it are to be permanently removed from their files and records; (4) not issue any notice to vacate to the Tenant until 2 months prior to the termination of her lease, July 9, 2002, unless the Tenant breaches the lease agreement.  In addition, the Commission placed the Landlord on official notice that any attempt by the Landlord to terminate the lease agreement prior to the termination of the lease agreement on July 9, 2002, for any reason other than breach of the lease agreement, will be construed as a violation of this Decision and Order and will be deemed to be a retaliatory act by the Landlord.


Arrow, up icon White vs. Martino

Case #  10588
Date Order Issued  March 19, 2001
Subject  Unauthorized Trash Collection Fee

On September 1, 2000, Michael and Susan White (Tenants), filed a complaint in which they alleged that Frank and Audrey Martino (Landlord) charged them a monthly trash collection fee ($20.00), even though they were in a County trash collection district, in violation of the County Code.  After holding a public hearing, the Commission found that:

The Landlord did charge the Tenants a monthly trash collection fee in violation of Section 29-30(a)(5) of the County Code and the Landlord must reimburse the Tenants for all fees paid up to the date of the Decision and Order. The Commission found that the Landlord's practice of charging tenants for trash collection fees when they were in County Collection districts was a violation of the County Code and caused a defective tenancy.

Accordingly, the Commission ordered the Landlord to pay the Tenants $220.00 or the amount the Tenants have paid to the date of this Order, whichever is greater. The Commission also ordered the Landlord to: immediately cease and desist imposing trash collection fees on tenants in County Trash Collection districts; notify all such tenants in writing that this provision in their leases is unenforceable and forward a copy of each letter to the Department; and remove from all lease agreements and lease addendums entered into after the date of this Order, any language requiring tenants to pay such a fee in a County Trash Collection district.


Arrow, up icon Shirley & Roland Israel vs. Fay Fan Lee

Case #  9936
Date Order Issued  June 8, 2000
Subject  Failure to Mitigate Damages

On August 24, 1999, Shirley and Roland Israel, Tenants, filed a complaint in which they alleged Fay Fan Lee, the Landlord, failed to mitigate damages resulting from their premature termination of lease.  After holding a public hearing, the Commission found that:

The Tenants abandoned the Property as of July 31, 1999, two months prior to the expiration of the Lease, and did not pay rent to the Landlord, in the amount of $1,100.00 a month, for the months of August and September 1999.

The Landlord had an obligation to mitigate the damages caused by the Tenants' premature termination of tenancy, breach of Lease and abandonment of the Property. Mitigation of damages required that the Landlord "use due diligence to obtain a new tenant," and "the listing of the property for sale did not satisfy the duty to mitigate damages, but the listing of the property for sale or rent and later for rent did satisfy that duty," Wilson v. Ruhl, 277 Md. 607, 356 A.2d 544 (1976).

Therefore, based on the above, the Commission finds that during the month of August 1999 when the Property was advertised "for sale" only, the Landlord failed to properly mitigate the damages caused by the Complainants' abandonment of the Property and "termination of occupancy before the end of the term," and therefore, the Tenants do not owe rent, in the amount of $1,100.00, to the Landlord for the month of August 1999. However, the Commission finds that the Respondent did satisfy his obligation to mitigate damages when he advertised the Property "for sale or lease," during the month of September 1999, and therefore, the Complainants owe rent, in the amount of $1,100.00, to the Landlord for the month of September 1999.