Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs
for Montgomery County, Maryland
|In the Matter of the Appeal filed by
Russell and Ellen Carter, Owners
8802 Glenville Road Silver Spring, MD 20901
Rental Facility License No. 017610
The above captioned appeal having come before the Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs for Montgomery County, Maryland ("the Commission"), pursuant to Sections 29-14A, 29-17, 29-18, 29-21, and 29-24 of the Montgomery County Code 1994, as amended, and the Commission having considered the testimony and evidence of record, it is therefore, this 28th day of August, 1998, found, determined, and ordered, as follows:
On August 4, 1998, the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (the"Department") issued notice to Russell and Ellen Carter (the "Appellants"), owners of 8802 Glenville Road, Silver Spring, Maryland (the "Property"), a licensed multi-family rental facility in Montgomery County, MD, that the Rental Facility License for the Property, License No. 017610, had been revoked as a result of their failure to correct 143 housing code violations. In response to the revocation notice, on August 8, 1998, the Appellants filed a formal appeal to the Montgomery County Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs (the "Commission").
The Appellants are seeking an order from the Commission reversing the Department's revocation of Rental Facility License No. 017610 for 8802 Glenville Road, Silver Spring, Maryland.
Pursuant to the procedures set forth in Section 29-24 of the Montgomery County Code, 1994, as amended ("County Code"), the Commission convened a public hearing on August 20, 1998. Present at the hearing and offering testimony and evidence were the Appellants and one (1) Commission witness, Rob Dejter, Inspector, Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Division of Code Enforcement. Without objection from the Appellants, the Commission entered into the record of the hearing the case file for the Property compiled by the Department, identified as Commission's Exhibit No. 1.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Based on the testimony and evidence of record, the Commission makes the following findings of fact:
1. The Appellants are the owners of the Property, a four (4) unit, garden-style apartment complex in Silver Spring, Maryland, which they purchased in February 1997.
2. By a letter dated May 27, 1998, the Department issued the Appellants a Notice of Violation citing 143 violations of Chapter 26,"Housing and Building Maintenance Standards," of the County Code (the "Housing Code"), noted as a result of an inspection conducted on May 18, 1998, and ordered the Appellants to abate the violations within 45 days. The Notice of Violation also advised the Appellants that failure to correct the violations would result in the revocation of their Rental Facility License.
3. By a letter dated July 17, 1998, sent to the Appellants by certified and regular mail, the Department informed the Appellants that a reinspection of the Property had occurred on July 2, 1998, the results of which revealed a"...lack of substantial progress...had been made on correcting the housing code violations identified in the May 27, 1998 Notice of Violation." The Appellants were further advised of their right to file an appeal of the Notice of Violation with the Montgomery County Board of Appeals within 15 days, and failure to correct the violations by July 31, 1998, would cause the Department to initiate procedures to revoke their Rental Facility License. The Appellants did not appeal the Notice of Violation to the Board of Appeals.
4. By a letter dated August 4, 1998, sent to the Appellants by certified and regular mail, the Department's Acting Director, Joe Giloley, informed the Appellants that a reinspection of the Property on July 31, 1998, revealed that,"...all of the violations about which you were put on notice are still outstanding." and, "As a result of your failure to correct the housing code violations identified in my letters of May 27, 1998 and July 17, 1998, this letter serves as written notice that, effective August 15, 1998, your license to operate the above-referenced rental facility is revoked." Acting Director Giloley's letter also advised the Appellants of their right to appeal his action to the Commission, which they did on August 8, 1998.
5. The Commission finds credible and factual the testimony of Inspector Dejter that the Department notified the Appellants on April 27, 1998, that an inspection of the Property would occur; that his inspection of the Property began on May 4, 1998, was completed on May 18, 1998, and resulted in a Notice of Violation citing 143 violations of the Housing Code being issued to the Appellants on May 27, 1998; that a reinspection of the Property conducted by Inspector Kevin Martell on July 2, 1998, found that none of the 143 outstanding code violations had been corrected; and, his personal reinspection of the Property on July 31, 1998, also found that the code violations had not been substantially corrected.
In response to the summons issued by the Commission, Inspector Dejter provided a videotape, entered into the record as Commission's Exhibit No. 2, and approximately 80 photographs, entered into the record as Commission's Exhibit No. 3, that he took at the Property during his July 31st inspection. The Commission finds that the videotape and the photographs fairly and accurately depict the condition of the Property on July 31, 1998.
6. The Appellants testified that when they purchased the Property in February 1997, they were under the impression, based on a letter from the Department dated February 5, 1997 (Appellants' Exhibit #1), sent to the former owner Mark Canter, that no housing code violations existed at that time. The Appellants also testified that they received the May 27, 1998 Notice of Violation, that the conditions described in that notice existed at the time of the inspection, that most of the violations had not been repaired or corrected as of the date of this hearing, and many violations pose a threat to the health and safety of the tenants.
7. The Appellants submitted into evidence a two-page work plan and timetable for the correction of the housing code violations (Appellants' Exhibit No. 2). The Commission finds this work plan to be inadequate and unrealistic based on the magnitude and scope of the work needed to bring the Property into compliance with the Housing Code, and the Appellants' testimony that they do not have the funds to make the repairs and attempts to secure a loan for that purpose have been unsuccessful.
8. The Appellants were given proper written notice of the Housing Code violations and ample opportunity to make repairs. As of July 31, 1998, the Appellants failed to substantially correct the 143 housing code violations cited by the Department, and several of those violations, specifically rodent and roach infestation, plumbing leaks and defective sub-flooring, constitute a threat to the health and safety of the tenants in the Property.
9. The Property is in violation of the Housing Code and Chapter 29,"Landlord-Tenant Relations," of the County Code due to the outstanding code violations and lack of maintenance and needed repairs. Furthermore, their is no expectation that the Appellants have the resources or ability to bring the Property into compliance with the County Code.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
The Commission makes the following conclusions of law based upon consideration of the testimony and evidence contained in the record:
1. The County has established the Housing Code to safeguard the health and safety of occupants of occupied dwellings and the general public which sets forth the minimum standards for the maintenance, repair and upkeep to those dwellings. The County is also authorized to inspect the condition of dwellings, nonresidential structures, and premises located in the County and conducts periodic inspections of those dwellings to determine if minimum standards are being maintained. (See Sec. 26-4 of Mont. Co. Code).
2. The County also requires that landlords obtain a license to operate a Rental Facility in the County. The issuance of the Rental Facility License is conditioned, in part, on the property being in compliance with all applicable laws, including the Housing Code, and,"If an inspection indicates that a rental facility is not in compliance with all applicable laws, the Director may revoke the license or take other remedial action." (See Sec. 29-21(c) of Mont. Co. Code)
3. The Department properly notified the Appellants of the existence of 143 housing code violations and gave them reasonable opportunity to abate those violations.
4. The Appellants failure to make needed repairs and abate the housing code violations after repeated notice from the Department constitutes a significant and substantial violation of Chapters 26 and 29 of the County Code, which is grounds for the revocation of the Rental Facility License for the Property.
5. Pursuant to Section 29-18(a) of the County Code, it is a violation of the County Code to conduct or operate a rental facility without a valid Rental Facility license.
6. Pursuant to Section 29-17(a) of the County Code,"Any person who conducts or operates, attempts to conduct or operate, or permits the conduct or operation of a rental facility owned by him...after a license has been revoked...shall be subject to punishment for a class A violation as set forth in section 1-19 of chapter 1 of the County Code" and, "Each day that a person conducts or operates, attempts to conduct or operate or permits the conduct or operation of a rental facility owned by him in violation of this chapter, or fails to comply with any commission order...shall constitute a separate offense."
7. Pursuant to Section 29-17(b) of the County Code,"In addition to any criminal or other penalty herein provided, injunctive or other appropriate action or proceeding to correct any violation of this article may be instituted by the county attorney's office pursuant to the provisions of section 29-8, and any court of competent jurisdiction may issue restraining orders, temporary or permanent injunctions or other appropriate forms of relief." However, "...where any person chooses to cease the conduction or operation of a rental facility, no penalty will lie during the sixty-day period that tenants have to vacate the facility as specified in section 29-24."
8. Pursuant to Section 29-24(b) of the County Code,"In the event that a license...is revoked ...and the landlord of the premises for which the license had been issued...chooses to cease renting the facility regulated hereunder, he shall give any tenants occupying the premises in question sixty (60) days' written notice to vacate the premises, said period to begin on the first day of the month following service of said notice. In addition, a copy of said notice must be delivered to the director.
In view of the foregoing, the Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs hereby orders that:
1. The appeal of the license revocation filed by the Appellants is hereby DENIED;
2. The revocation of Rental Facility License No. 017610 for 8802 Glenville Road, Silver Spring, Maryland, is hereby AFFIRMED; and,
3. The revocation of Rental Facility License No. 017610 for 8802 Glenville Road, Silver Spring, Maryland, is in addition to, and not in substitution for, such other penalties which may be provided for by Chapters 26 and 29 of the County Code.
The foregoing decision was concurred in unanimously by Panel Chairperson Greg Smith and Commissioners Gary Everngam and Martin Schnider.
The parties are hereby notified that Section 29-44 of the Montgomery County Code 1994, as amended, declares that failure to comply with this Decision and Order shall be punishable by a civil fine Class A violation as set forth in Section 1-19 of the Montgomery County Code 1994, as amended.
Any party aggrieved by the action of the Commission may file an administrative appeal to the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Maryland, within thirty (30) days from the date of this Order, pursuant to the Maryland Rules governing administrative appeals.
Greg Smith, Panel Chairperson
Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs