Decisions and Orders for Rent Abatement Cases
This page contains summaries of Decisions and Orders for rent abatement 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|
|T-12787||Jim Johnson vs. Plymouth Muse Limited Liability Co. and Lewis I. and Susan L. Winarsky||Aug. 3, 1999||Tenant $2,575.20|
|T-12823||Heather Farr and Kenneth Volante vs. Plymouth Muse Limited Liability Co. and Lewis I. and Susan L. Winarsky||Aug. 3, 1999||Tenant $1,893.25|
|T-12825||Nick Jamilla vs. Plymouth Muse Limited Liability Co. and Lewis I. and Susan L. Winarsky||Aug. 3, 1999||Tenant $1,724.85|
|131||Kimberly Collins vs. Plymouth Muse Limited Liability Co. and Lewis I. and Susan L. Winarsky||Aug. 3, 1999||Tenant $1,850.00|
|2912||Michael Floyd vs. Plymouth Muse Limited Liability Co. and Lewis I. and Susan L. Winarsky||Aug. 3, 1999||Tenant $1,070.66|
|3310||Densil Roberts vs. Plymouth Muse Limited Liability Co. and Lewis I. and Susan L. Winarsky||Aug. 3, 1999||Tenant $3,129.00|
|3098||Shawn Brown and Michelle Roberts vs. Plymouth Muse Limited Liability Co. and Lewis I. and Susan L. Winarsky||Aug. 3, 1999||Tenant $208.16|
|7794||David Waple and Jenny O’Brien vs. David H. Saah||Apr. 22, 1999||Tenant $1,113.11|
|4546||Barbara Wetherall vs. Chander and Ashima Kant||Dec. 16, 1998||Tenant $5,958.00|
|H-1516||William and Stephanie Wharton vs. Mervyn and Hania Schwedt||July 8, 1997||
|T-12611||Olivia E. Brooks vs. Blair Park Ltd.Partnership||June 17, 1996||Tenant $2,294.63|
|T-12582||Marva Oakley vs. Blair Park Ltd.Partnership||June 17, 1996||Tenant $2,294.63|
|T-12639||Mabel Biney vs. Blair Park Ltd.Partnership||June 17, 1996||Tenant $2,294.63|
|T-12644||Rehema P. Mangaza vs. Blair Park Ltd.Partnership||June 17, 1996||Tenant $3,013.15|
|T-12658||Phoebe Robinson vs. Blair Park Ltd.Partnership||June 17, 1996||Tenant $2,201.92|
|T-12591||Newma Hawkins vs. Daniel T. Nainan||May 23, 1996||Tenant $1,010.00|
Jim Johnson, Heather Farr and Kenneth Volante, Nick Jamilla, Kimberly Collins, Michael Floyd, Densil Roberts, Shawn Brown and Michelle Roberts
vs. Plymouth Muse Limited Liability Co. and Lewis I. and Susan L. Winarsky
Case #s T-12787, T-12823, T-12825, 131, 2912, 3310, 3098
Date Order Issued August 3, 1999
Subject Utility Conversion, Maintenance, Improper Boiler Installation, Posting of License
Between July 23, 1996 and March 14, 1997, Jim Johnson, Heather Farr, Kenneth Volante, Kimberly Collins, Michael Floyd, Densil Roberts, Shawn Brown and Michelle Roberts, Tenants, filed complaints alleging their Landlord, Plymouth Muse Limited Liability Co. and Lewis I. and Susan L. Winarsky: (1) failed to give them proper notice of transfer of utility responsibility from the landlord to the tenant; (2) failed to offer a rent reduction commensurate with the cost of paying the utility; (3) improperly installed gas boilers; (4) set up utility accounts in their names without their consent; and (5) failed to make requested/required repairs after being put on notice by them and the Department of Housing and Community Affairs ("DHCA"). Although each individual complaint had other issues, the five listed above were the issues that were involved in all complaints.
After holding a public hearing, the Commission found that the Landlord:
- did give Tenants proper notice of intent to transfer the payment of the gas and electric utilities to each individual tenant, in substantial compliance with Section 29-30D(b)(1) and (2) of the Montgomery County Code, Landlord-Tenant Relations, 1994, as amended ("County Code");
- did offer the Tenants rent reductions commensurate with the average amount paid for these utilities during the previous 24-month period. The Landlord offered a $30.00 rent reduction. The average gas bill during this period was $13.00 and the average electric bill was $20.19. DHCA recommended the rent reduction be $33.00, which the Landlord complied with;
- did not violate any law or statute by initiating the conversion of the utilities since proper notice was given to the Tenants, however, the cost of setting up these accounts should not have been passed on to the Tenants;
- installed a new boiler system that was found to be defective. Several expert witnesses testified that the configuration of the system allowed a tenant whose service had been cut off to turn on his/her circulating pump and receive heat and hot water at the expense of another Tenant whose boiler happened to be running. These experts agreed that this defect could be corrected by the addition of "aquastat" controls to each boiler, which was done on or about January 1, 1998. Since the boiler system is now properly installed, it is not possible to determine if the Tenants were paying the proper amount on their gas bills for the period February 1996, when the boilers were installed, until January 1, 1998, when the system was adjusted; and
- failed to respond in a timely manner to requests for repairs from the Tenants and to repair problems cited and ordered by inspectors from the DHCA. The Landlord’s failure to make timely repairs to the Property created a defective tenancy and reduced the value of the leasehold for each individual Tenant by 25%.
On August 3, 1999, the Commission ordered the Landlord to pay each Tenant an award, based in pertinent part on (1) a 25% reduction in the value of the leasehold because of the Landlord’s failure to make timely repairs; and, (2) reimbursement for gas payments for the period February 1996, when the boiler system was installed, through January 1, 1998, when the defective installation was remedied.
The Commission ordered the Landlord to pay as follows:
- Tenant Jim Johhnson $2,575.20
- Tenants Heather Farr and Kenneth Volante $1,893.25
- Tenant Nick Jamilla $1,724.85
- Tenant Kimberly Collins $1,850.00
- Tenant Michael Floyd $1,070.66
- Tenant Densil Roberts $3,129.00
- Tenants Shawn Brown and Michelle Roberts $ 208.16
Case # 7794
Date Order Issued April 22, 1999
Subject Failure To Make Repairs, Breach of the Lease Agreement
On May 5, 1998, David Waple and Jenny O’Brien, Tenants, filed a complaint against David H. Saah, Landlord, in which they alleged the Landlord: 1) failed to make requested repairs to the Property; 2) began construction of a new house at the rear of the lot on which the Property sits, severely limiting their yard space and reducing the value of the leasehold; and (3) contractors building the new house used their electricity and water without their permission which increased their electric and water bills.
After holding a public hearing, the Commission found that:
- the Landlord did fail to repair leaks after being informed repeatedly by the Tenants and is liable for costs incurred by the Tenants to make those repairs (579.33), along with an increased water bill (200.00), which totaled $779.33;
- the Lease did not cover the adjoining lot, the Landlord was entitled to build on this Property and did not reduce the value of the Tenants’ leasehold;
- the lease called for the Landlord to pay a of the utility bills for the Property (electric and water) which the Landlord failed to pay for the last month of the Tenants’ tenancy and is liable for those payments, which total $333.78 (218.92 for electric and 114.86 for water); and,
- the Landlord caused a defective tenancy by failing to make needed and necessary repairs to the Property after being put on notice by the Tenants and failing to reimburse the Tenants for a of the utility payments during the last month of their tenancy.
On April 22, 1999, the Commission ordered the Landlord to pay the Tenants’ $1,113.11, which sum represents reimbursement for repairs and an increased water bill (779.33) plus reimbursement for utility bills owed by the Landlord (333.78).
Case # 4546
Date Order Issued December 16, 1998
Subject Maintenance, Breach of Lease, Retaliation
On July 18, 1997, Barbara Wetherall, Tenant, filed a complaint against her former Landlord, Chander and Ashima Kant, in which she alleged that the Landlord failed to deliver the Property in clean, safe and sanitary condition, in compliance with all applicable laws at the commencement of the tenancy; failed to make needed and necessary repairs to the Property in a timely and workmanlike manner, which reduced the value of the leasehold; issued her a notice to vacate the Property in retaliation for making requests for repairs; and, failed to make repairs and attempted to evict her without cause.
After holding a public hearing, the Commission found that:
- several defects existed at the Property when the Tenant took possession, including a faulty kitchen faucet, a leaky washing machine, a defective garage door mechanism, a defective water heater and a deteriorated perimeter fence;
- the Tenant provided the Landlord with actual and written notice of the defects within two weeks of moving into the Property;
- many of these defects were pre-existing, as evidenced by the testimony of the previous tenant at the Property, White, and the testimony of the Housing Code Enforcement Inspector, Morris, who cited the owner for the deteriorated fence prior to the Tenant moving into the Property;
- the deteriorated fence and defective garage closing mechanism were a threat to the Tenant’s health and safety; and,
- the requested/required repairs to the Property were not made in a timely or workmanlike manner.
Regarding the allegations of retaliation, the Commission found that:
- the Landlord issued the Tenant a notice to vacate the Property in retaliation for her requests that he make repairs to the Property;
- the Landlord engaged in a pattern of retaliatory practice against tenants who requested repairs, and the Landlord’s threats of eviction, notices to vacate, repeated filings against the Tenant in the District Court, and failure to make required/requested repairs were all retaliatory actions against the Tenant.
Regarding the allegations of breach of lease, the Commission found that:
- the Landlord rented the Property to the Tenant with pre-existing damages and with full knowledge that the Property was not in compliance with Section 29-26(n) of Chapter 29;
- the Landlord’s failure to make needed and necessary repairs to the Property after being put on notice by both the Tenant and the Department of Housing and Community Affairs was a violation of Section 29-30(a) of the County Code and Paragraph 9 of the lease agreement;
- the Landlord’s failure to deliver the Property to the Tenant at the commencement of the tenancy in compliance with all applicable laws and his failure to make repairs after being put on notice by both the Tenant and the Department, decreased the Tenant’s ability to use certain appliances during the tenancy and lead to her inability to let her dog run loose in the backyard for her entire tenancy, constituted a diminution of the value of the leasehold by 15%; and,
- the Landlord’s failure to make needed and necessary repairs to the Property and attempts to evict the Tenant prior to the expiration of the lease constituted a significant and substantial breach of the lease, which caused the Tenant not to exercise her renewal option for a second year and caused her to incur actual expense to relocate.
On July 18, 1998, the Commission:
- terminated the lease agreement effective May 31, 1998;
- ordered the Landlord to pay the Tenant $5,958.00, which sum represents the Tenant’s entire security deposit ($1,400) plus accrued interest ($56.00), attorney’s fees ($1,000.00), costs incurred to relocate from the Property based on the Landlord’s breach of lease ($982.00), and 15% of the monthly rent for 12 months based on the reduced value of the leasehold ($2,520.00);
- ordered the Landlord to cease the practice of issuing a vacate notice to any tenant residing in property he owns, operates or manages in Montgomery County based solely on the tenant’s request for repairs or for filing a complaint with the Department or the Commission;
- ordered the Landlord, for a period of two years from the date of the order, to submit all lease agreements to the Department for review and approval, prior to their issuance; and
- ordered the Landlord to make any and all repairs to the Property, generated by future tenants or community residents, in accordance with the time frames and instructions set by the Department. Failure to adhere to the provisions of the Order is grounds for the issuance of a Class A civil citation in the amount of $500.00 and the immediate revocation of any and all Rental Licenses held by the Landlord.
Case # H-1516
Date Order Issued July 8, 1997
Subject Failure to Make Repairs, Rent Abatement
On March 8, 1996, William and Stephanie Wharton, Tenants, filed a complaint against Mervyn and Hania Schwedt, Landlord, in which they alleged that the Landlord failed to deliver the Property at the commencement of their tenancy in a clean, safe and habitable condition. The Tenants asserted that because of this negligence, the value of the leasehold was greatly diminished.
After holding a public hearing, the Commission determined that:
- the Property was in disrepair at the commencement of the tenancy which caused a three and one-half month delay in occupancy by the Tenants;
- the Landlord failed to make any repairs to the Property from the original commencement date to the date of the hearing;
- the District Court had established a rent ecrow account in July 1996;
- during the period the house was uninhabitable, the Tenants paid rent to the Landlord’s mother at the rate of $75 per week;
- the Landlord failed to repair several plumbing leaks, after being notified by County Code Enforcement and the Tenants;
- as a result of this failure to make repairs, the Tenants incurred a cost of $166.00 to make these repairs and incurred a water bill of $427.98; and,
- the Landlord amended the original lease to state that the Tenants accepted the property in "as is" condition.
The Commission ordered the Landlord to pay the Tenants $5,919.99, which sum represents: 1) the Tenants’ security deposit ($1,000.00) plus one year’s interest ($40.00); 2) all rent paid by the Tenants between January and March, 1996 ($3,000.00); 3) partial refund of the rent paid between April and June 1996 ($1,500.00); 4) one-half of the WSSC bill ($213.99); and 5) reimbursement for plumbing repairs ($166.00). The Commission further ordered the immediate termination of the lease agreement between the Landlord and the Tenants.
Olivia E. Brooks, Marva Oakley, Mabel Biney, Rehema P. Mangaza, Phoebe Robinson
vs. Blair Park Ltd.Partnership;
Case #s T-12611, T-12582, T-12639, T-12644, T-12658
Date Order Issued June 17, 1996
Subject Lease Agreement, Maintenance, Retaliation, Rent Abatement
Between December 4, 1995 and March 6, 1996, Olivia E. Brooks, Marva Oakley, Mabel Biney, Rehema P. Mangaza, and Phoebe Robinson, Tenants, filed complaints against Blair Park Limited Partnership, Landlord, in which they alleged that the Landlord failed to offer them a readable lease agreement or one that was in compliance with State and County law; failed to offer them a two-year lease as required by County law; failed to make timely and workmanlike repairs to the Property; failed to give them proper notice before entering their units, violating their privacy; and, engaged in retaliatory actions against them, including threatened evictions, harassment, and reduction in services.
After holding a public hearing, the Commission found that:
- the Landlord signed a Consent Agreement with Montgomery County on March 22, 1996, resolving the issue of readable leases and offering of two-year leases to all tenants;
- the Landlord was put on notice by the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Division of Code Enforcement, initially on December 6, 1995 of numerous (132) code violations, again on January 26, 1996 of 525 additional violations;
- the landlord was put on notice on April 18, 1996, by the Montgomery County Division of Fire Code Enforcement of 17 violations, the majority of which had not been repaired through the date of the hearing (141 days later);
- the Landlord engaged in retaliatory practices against the Tenants by failing to give them any notice before entering their units, failing to make needed repairs to the Property, and failing to respond to their requests after they filed complaints with the Division of Housing and Code Enforcement;
- the Tenants failed to demonstrate they suffered any actual damages; and,
- the Landlord did create defective tenancies by failing to make repairs required by the Montgomery County Housing and Fire Codes.
On June 17, 1996, the Commission ordered the Landlord to do the following: refund to each Tenant all rent money paid for the period of December 6, 1995, through April 25, 1996- an award based on the date the Landlord was first put on notice by the Division of Housing and Code Enforcement through the date of the public hearing, April 24-25, 1996, which total is 141 days; offer each Tenant the option to terminate their lease by July 31, 1996, with the return of their security deposit plus accrued interest at the time they vacate; immediately stop entering Tenants’ apartments without giving at least 24 hours’ notice to, and without objection from, the Tenants; complete all outstanding repairs cited by the Division of Housing and Code Enforcement between December 1995, and the date of the hearing, within 30 days; and, pay reasonable attorney’s fees (up to $500.00 per Tenant) provided the Tenants’ attorney(s) submit the bill for services within 15 days of the date of the Order.
Case # T-12591
Date Order Issued May 23, 1996
Subject Retaliatory Notice to Vacate, Failure to Make Repairs
In December 1995, Newma Hawkins, Tenant, filed a complaint against Daniel T. Nainan, Landlord, alleging that he (1) failed to offer her a 2 year lease at the beginning of her tenancy; (2) issued her a notice to vacate in retaliation for complaints she filed with the County about roach infestation and a defective stove in her apartment and her attempts to form a tenants’ association; and (3) failed to correct serious housing code violations in her apartment for nearly 4 months.
After holding a public hearing, the Commission found that:
- the issue of the 2 year lease offer had been resolved prior to hearing;
- the notice to vacate issued to Hawkins by Nainan was in retaliation for complaints filed about roach infestation, a defective stove and other housing code violations in her apartment, and,
- Nainan’s failure to repair Hawkins’ gas stove for 101 days caused her to eat certain meals outside of her apartment. The Commission noted that prior to the hearing, the District Court abated Hawkins’ rent for 3 months ($1,530.00), and denied Nainan’s attempt to enforce the notice to vacate.
Therefore, based on his failure to repair the gas stove in her apartment for 101 days, on May 23, 1996, the Commission ordered Nainan to pay Hawkins $1,010.00, which sum represented the actual cost Hawkins incurred to eat meals out of her apartment, $10.00 per day for 101 days. Nainan then appealed the Commission’s Order to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County for judicial review, and on May 13, 1997, the Court affirmed the Commission’s Order. Subsequently, Nainan paid Hawkins $1,010.00.