Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs
for Montgomery County, Maryland
|In the Matter of the Appeal filed by
David and Ching-mei Tsai, Owners
8806 Glenville Road Silver Spring, MD 20901
Rental Facility License No. 017823
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 ("County Code"), and the Commission having considered the testimony and evidence of record, it is therefore, this 17th day of September, 1998, found, determined, and ordered, as follows:
On August 5, 1998, the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (the "Department") issued notice to David and Ching-mei Tsai (the "Appellants"), owners of 8806 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County, MD, that the Rental Facility License for the Property, issued by the Department, License No. 017823, had been revoked as a result of their failure to correct all 156 housing code violations at the Property. In response to the revocation notice, on August 12, 1998, the Appellants filed a formal appeal to the Commission.
The Appellants are seeking an order from the Commission reversing the Department's revocation of Rental Facility License No. 017823 for 8806 Glenville Road, Silver Spring, Maryland.
Pursuant to the procedures set forth in Section 29-24 of the County Code, the Commission convened a public hearing which began and ended on August 25, 1998. Present at the hearing and offering testimony and evidence were Ching-mei Tsai on behalf of herself and David Tsai and one Commission witness, Rob Dejter, Inspector, Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Division of Housing and 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.
Furthermore, the Commission extended the time period within which it would decide this matter pursuant to Sections 2A-10(d) and 29-24 of the County Code and Section 7.1 of Appendix L, "Regulations on Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs" of Chapter 29 of the County Code, and hereby decides as follows:
FINDINGS OF FACT
Based on the testimony and evidence of record, the Commission makes the following findings of fact:
1. David and Ching-mei Tsai are the owners of the Property, an eight (8) unit, garden-style apartment complex in Silver Spring, Maryland, and have owned it since 1986.
2. On June 10, 1998, the Department issued the Appellants a Notice of Violation citing 156 violations of Chapter 26, Housing and Building Maintenance Standards, of the County Code ("Housing Code"), noted as a result of an inspection conducted by Inspector Robert Dejter on June 4, 1998, and ordered the Appellants to abate the violations within 30 to 45 days.
3. By a letter dated July 6, 1998, the Appellants requested an extension of two months to complete the repairs, and submitted the names of two contractors, PHI Engineering Company and Bill Guzman, who would be doing the repair work. (see page 18 of Commission's Exhibit No. 1).
4. In response to the Appellants' July 6th request, by a letter dated July 17, 1998, sent to and received by the Appellants, Joe Giloley, Chief, Division of Housing and Code Enforcement, notified the Appellants that: (a) it is the Department's policy not to entertain requests for an extension of time to correct housing code violations until after the first reinspection has been completed to determine what progress has been made, and therefore, their request for an extension of time to make the repairs was denied; (b) a reinspection of the Property was scheduled for July 31, 1998; (c) they had the right to file an appeal of the Notice of Violation with the Montgomery County Board of Appeals within 15 days; and (d) failure to correct all of the violations, with the exception of violation No. 1 (re-paving the parking lots) by July 31, 1998, would result in the revocation of their Rental Facility License. (see pages 15-17 of Commission's Exhibit No. 1).
5. Inspector Dejter testified that he conducted a reinspection of the Property on July 17, 1998, in the company of Appellant Ching-mei Tsai, to determine if the housing code violations cited on June 10th had been corrected, and found that only 5 of the 156 code violations (violation No. 1 having been waived) had been corrected. He further testified that he conducted a second reinspection of the Property on July 31, 1998, and determined that 126 of the 156 code violations had not been corrected.
6. By a letter dated August 5, 1998, sent to and received by the Appellants, the Department's Acting Director Giloley informed the Appellants that the July 31st reinspection, "...revealed that of the 156 violations about which you were placed on notice, 132 are still outstanding." and, "As a result of your failure to correct the housing code violations identified in my letters of June 10, 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." The letter also advised the Appellants, pursuant to Section 29-24 of the County Code, of their right to appeal the license revocation to the Commission. (see pages 11-14 of Commission's Exhibit No. 1).
7. The Commission finds, based on the testimony and evidence provided by Inspector Dejter, that all 156 deficiencies cited by the Department in the Notice of Violation dated June 10, 1998, are violations of the County's Housing Code, and that as of July 31, 1998, 126 of those 156 housing code violations had not been corrected, not the 132 violations referenced in Mr. Giloley's letter of August 5th.
8. On August 12, 1998, the Appellants filed an appeal to the Commission, which is the subject of this hearing (see pages 7-8 of Commission's Exhibit No. 1).
9. In response to a summons issued by the Commission for this hearing, Inspector Dejter provided approximately 100 photographs that he and inspector Kevin Martell personally took at the Property during the July 31st reinspection of the Property. The photographs were shown to the Appellant, Ching-mei Tsai, who agreed that they fairly and accurately depict the condition of the Property on July 31, 1998.
10. The Commission finds credible and factual the testimony of Inspector Dejter that:
(a) he inspected the Property on June 4, 1998, and as a result of that inspection, on June 10, 1998, the Department issued a Notice of Violation to the Appellants citing 156 violations of the Housing Code;
(b) he reinspected the Property on July 31, 1998, and found that 132 of the 156 code violations had not been corrected; and,
(c) he reinspected the Property on August 25, 1998, the date of this hearing, and found that 111 of the 156 code violations had not been corrected.
11. The Commission also finds credible and factual the testimony of Inspector Dejter that the following, uncorrected code violations noted during his reinspection on July 31, 1998, constitute a threat to the safety of the tenants at the Property:
(a) Violation No. 2 (at page 27 of Commission's Exhibit No. 1): deteriorated concrete walkway leading to the lower level (trip hazard);
(b) Violation No. 7 (at page 27 of Commission's Exhibit No. 1): loose wrought iron hand rail (falling hazard);
(c) Violation No. 15 (at page 28 of Commission's Exhibit No. 1): rusted, deteriorated perimeter fence with unattached meshing (cut hazard to passers by);
(d) Violation No. 21 (at page 29 of Commission's Exhibit No. 1): missing electric fuse box cover in furnace room (electrical hazard);
(e) Violation No. 22 (at page 29 of Commission's Exhibit No. 1): improperly wired electrical outlet in furnace room (electrical hazard);
(f) Violation No. 30 (at page 31 of Commission's Exhibit No. 1): unsecured roof access ladder (falling hazard); and,
(g) Violation No. 96 (at page 41 of Commission's Exhibit No. 1): double-cylinder dead-bolt lock on entrance door to Unit #3 (egress/fire hazard);
12. Appellant Ching-mei Tsai testified at the hearing that she did not dispute the existence of the 111 outstanding code violations testified to by Inspector Dejter. However, she further testified that: (a) she and her husband also own 8809 Glenville Road, a four unit apartment building across the street from the Property, which is also under notice from the Department to correct outstanding code violations and is where they have concentrated their repair efforts; (b) she has hired a professional maintenance person for the Property beginning September 1, 1998; and (c) she has hired two contractors, PHI Engineering Company to complete repair work on the remaining exterior code violations and U.S. Interiors to make all repairs of the interior code violations. Ms. Tsai also testified that all exterior code violations should be corrected by August 31, 1998, and all interior code violations should be corrected within one to one-and-a-half months.
13. In support of her testimony, Ms. Tsai entered into evidence at the hearing one document, a report from PHI Engineering Company, dated August 21, 1998, listing work completed to correct the following code violations cited by the Department on June 10th: Nos. 2, 8, 12, 13, 15 and 17. (see Appellants' Exhibit No. 1)
14. The Appellants were given proper written notice of the housing code violations by the Department and ample opportunity to make repairs. As of July 31, 1998, the Appellants failed to correct 132 of the 156 housing code violations cited by the Department, and the Property was 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.
15. The Appellants failed to make any substantial effort to correct the majority of the referenced 156 code violations until after they received notice from the Department that their Rental Facility License had been revoked.
16. Based on the photographic evidence and the undisputed testimony of Inspector Dejter, the Commission finds that the Appellants have failed to provide regular maintenance to the exterior and interior common areas of the Property, and certain attempted repairs, such as bathroom caulking, floor tiles, window glazing and plastering and painting of interior walls and trim surfaces, and masonry work, have been done in an unworkmanlike1 manner.
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 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 on June 10, 1998, of the existence of 156 housing code violations, and gave them reasonable opportunity to abate those violations.
4. As a result of the existence of the 156 housing code violations cited by the Department on June 10, 1998, the Property was not in compliance with applicable County laws.
5. The Appellants' failure to make necessary repairs to the Property in a timely and workmanlike manner and to abate all of 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.
In view of the foregoing, the Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs hereby orders that:
1. The Department's revocation of Rental Facility License No. 017823 for 8806 Glenville Road, Silver Spring, Maryland, is hereby MODIFIED.
2. Rental Facility License No. 017823 is hereby TEMPORARILY REINSTATED conditioned on the following:
a). Correction of all remaining housing code violations (violation No. 1, parking lot re-paving having been waived), cited by the Department in the Notice of Violation dated June 10, 1998, by October 23, 1998.
b). Commencing with the month of November 1998, and continuing for 12 calendar months thereafter, the Property, including all common areas, are subject to bi-monthly inspections by the Department. The Appellants must contact the Department to schedule such inspections, which are to be conducted within the first 10 days of the month in which the inspection is to occur.
c). If any housing code violations are discovered as the result of required bi-monthly inspections, they must be corrected in accordance with the time-frames and instructions set forth by the Department. Failure to complete any repairs within time-frames set by the Department constitutes non-compliance with this Order and is grounds for immediate revocation of the temporary reinstatement and the affirmation of the revocation of the license by the Commission.
3. Copies of all bi-monthly inspection reports, and any other inspection reports which may be generated by complaints from tenants at the Property or by community residents, are to be submitted to the Commission by the Department at the first meeting of the Commission after any inspection, together with a statement as to whether or not the Appellants have complied with the conditions set forth in this Order.
4. If the Appellants remain in compliance with this Order up to and including the final bi-monthly inspection of the Property, Rental Facility License No. 017823 for 8806 Glenville Road, will be fully reinstated.
5. The Commission hereby retains jurisdiction over the status of the Appellants' Rental Facility License for the Property until such time as it is fully reinstated or until such time as the Revocation is affirmed.
6. Appellants' failure to comply with any provision contained in this Order constitutes non-compliance with this Order, and is grounds for immediate affirmation by the Commission of the Department's revocation of the Rental Facility License No. 017823 for 8806 Glenville Road, Silver Spring, Maryland, which would be 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.
7. This Order is subject to change by the Commission.
The foregoing decision was concurred in unanimously by Panel Chairperson Roger Luchs and Commissioners Gary Guy and Jonathan Smith.
The Appellants are hereby notified that Section 29-44 of the County Code 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.
Roger Luchs, Panel Chairperson
Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs