DECISION AND ORDER
The above captioned case having come before
the Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs for Montgomery County, Maryland (the
“Commission”), pursuant to Sections 29-10, 29-14, 29-41, 29-44 and 29-47 of
the Montgomery County Code, 2001, as amended (County Code”), and the
Commission having considered the testimony and evidence of record, it is
therefore, this 11th day of October, 2002,
found, determined, and ordered, as follows:
By an Order dated February 25, 2002, the
Commission affirmed the decision of the Montgomery County Department of
Housing and Community Affairs (the “Department”), revoking the Rental Facility
License of Chukwujindu Victor Mbakpuo (the “Respondent”) for 575 Thayer
Avenue, #606, Silver Spring, Maryland, as well as revoking the Rental Facility
Licenses of the Respondent for 3301 Hewitt Avenue #407, Silver Spring,
Maryland, and 8830 Piney Branch Road, #204, Silver Spring, Maryland.
On March 27, 2002, Patricia John and her
daughter, Tricia John (the “Complainants”), filed a formal complaint with the
Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs, within the Department, in which they
alleged that the Respondent, owner of 575 Thayer Avenue, #606, Silver Spring,
Maryland (hereinafter referred to as “575 Thayer Avenue”), a condominium unit
at Thayer Towers Condominium (“Thayer Towers”), attempted to rent them 575
Thayer Avenue and demanded and accepted from them $2,570.00 in rent,
application fees, a condominium fee and a security deposit.
The Complainants are seeking an Order from
the Commission for the Respondent to refund the $2,750.00 they paid to the
Respondent for the rental of 575 Thayer Avenue.
After determining that the complaint was not
susceptible to conciliation, the Department duly referred this case to the
Commission for its review, and on May 14, 2002, the Commission voted to hold a
public hearing, which was subsequently scheduled for August 6, 2002. However,
on August 6, 2002, the Complainant, Patricia John, requested that the hearing
be continued due to an unforeseen emergency. Pursuant to Section 4.10 of
Appendix L, Regulations on the Commission on Landlord-Tenant, of the
the Complainants’ motion for a continuance was granted, and the hearing was
re-scheduled for September 3, 2002, at 6:30 PM.
The public hearing in the matter of Patricia
John, et al. v. Chukwujindu Victor Mbakpuo, relative to Case No. 13288,
commenced on September 3, 2002, and concluded on that date. The record
reflects that the Complainants and the Respondent were given proper notice of
the re-scheduled hearing date and time. Present at the hearing and presenting
testimony and evidence were the Complainants, Patricia John and Tricia John.
The Respondent failed to appear at the hearing after receiving proper notice
(See pages 54 through 58 of Commission’s Exhibit No. 1). Also present and
providing testimony and evidence were three witnesses called by the
Commission, Inspector Kevin Martell from the Department’s Division of Housing
and Code Enforcement, Investigator Michael Denney, from the Department’s
Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs, and Joe Giloley, Chief of the Department’s
Division of Housing and Code Enforcement.
Without objection the Commission entered into
the record of the hearing the contents of Case File No. 13288 compiled by the
Department, identified as Commission’s Exhibit No. 1, and the audio recording
of the July 9, 2002, District Court trial captioned State of Maryland vs.
Victor Mbakpuo, identified as Commission’s Exhibit No. 2.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Based on the testimony and evidence of
record, the Commission makes the following findings of fact:
Respondent is the owner of 575 Thayer Avenue, #606, Silver Spring, Maryland, a
condominium unit at Thayer Towers Condominium.
January 3, 2002, the Department issued notice to the Respondent that the
Rental Facility License for 575 Thayer Avenue, as well as the Rental Facility
Licenses for two other rental condominiums he owns in Montgomery County, had
been revoked as a result of his failure to correct numerous violations of
Chapter 26, Housing and Building Maintenance Standards, of the
Montgomery County Code, 1997, as amended (“Housing Code”).
Respondent filed a formal appeal of the license revocation to the Commission
and a public hearing was convened on January 17, 2002. Following the hearing,
on February 25, 2002, the Commission issued its Decision and Order affirming
the Department’s revocation of the Rental Facility Licenses for 575 Thayer
Avenue, 3301 Hewitt Avenue, #407, Silver Spring, Maryland, and 8830 Piney
Branch Road, #204, Silver Spring, Maryland.
4. By a
letter dated February 25, 2002, the Department advised the Respondent that to
comply with the Commission’s Order he was to issue notice to all his tenants
at his three Montgomery County rental properties, including those tenants at
575 Thayer Avenue, to vacate by April 30, 2002, and he was to discontinue
operating those three properties, including 575 Thayer Avenue, as rental
or before February 25, 2002, the Complainants contacted the Respondent in
response to an advertisement the Respondent had placed in the Washington Post
newspaper regarding the availability of a rental unit he owned in Montgomery
February 25, 2002, the Respondent showed the Complainants the residential
condominium unit at 3301 Hewitt Avenue, #407, Silver Spring, Maryland
(hereinafter referred to as “3301 Hewitt Avenue”), and advised them that it
was available for rent.
February 25, 2002, the Complainants paid to the Respondent $700.00 cash, which
the Commission finds constituted a security deposit, to rent 3301 Hewitt
Commission credits the testimony of Complainant Patricia John that on February
26, 2002, she informed Respondent that she believed 3301 Hewitt Avenue was
unsafe and therefore, she did not intend to rent it. The Commission also
credits the Complainant Patricia John’s testimony that in response to her
notification, the Respondent stated that he would return her $700.00 security
Commission finds that the Respondent never returned the $700.00 security
deposit he received from the Complainants for 3301 Hewitt Avenue.
The Respondent subsequently showed to Complainants 575 Thayer Avenue as
available for immediate rental, and advised the Complainants that certain
needed repairs would be made to the unit before the Complainants took
The Commission credits the testimony of Complainant Patricia John that
she and the Respondent agreed that the rent for 575 Thayer Avenue would be
$1,300.00 per month.
On March 1, 2002, the Complainants paid the Respondent $35.00 in cash
for an application fee for Complainant Patricia John.
On March 4, 2002, the Complainants paid the Respondent $1,035.00 in
cash, consisting of $1,000.00 rent for 575 Thayer Avenue and $35.00 for an
application fee for Complainant Tricia John.
On March 5, 2002, the Complainants paid the Respondent an additional
$700.00 in cash. The Commission finds based on the evidence and the testimony
that this money appeared to have been partially for rent for 575 Thayer Avenue
and partially as a security deposit.
The Commission credits the testimony of the Complainants that on or
about March 5, 2002, they paid to Respondent $100.00 in cash as a condominium
The Commission credits the testimony of the Complainants that they
verbally requested to see a copy of the lease, and in response the Respondent
stated he needed to make certain adjustments to the lease and that he would
bring the lease to the Complainants after they moved into 575 Thayer Avenue.
The Commission finds that no written lease was ever signed between the
parties for the rental of 575 Thayer Avenue.
On March 6, 2002, the day the Complainants were scheduled to move into
575 Thayer Avenue, Inspector Martell conducted an inspection of that unit and
condemned it as unfit for human habitation. The Commission credits the
testimony of Inspector Martell that on March 6, 2002, 575 Thayer Avenue lacked
a hard-wired smoke detector as required by the Housing Code.
On March 6, 2002, Inspector Martell also noted other violations of the
Housing Code at 575 Thayer Avenue, including, but not limited to, the
following: the stove and the dishwasher were inoperable (the dishwasher was
sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor), the disposal and the kitchen sink
were not connected to the plumbing system, and the counter tops were in
On March 6, 2002, Inspector Martell met with the Complainants in the
vicinity of 575 Thayer Avenue and informed them that Respondent no longer had
a Rental Facility License for that unit, and that 575 Thayer Avenue had been
condemned as unfit for human habitation.
On March 7, 2002, Inspector Martell issued to Respondent two (2) Class
A civil citations and $500.00 fines, one for operating a rental facility
without a license (Citation #4Z33654548), and the other for failure to comply
with the Commission’s February 25, 2002 Order (Citation #4Z33654548). On July
9, 2002, in the matter of State of Maryland vs. Victor Mbakpuo, the referenced
citations were adjudicated in the District Court of Maryland. The Court found
the Respondent guilty, imposed fines, and issued an Order of Abatement (See
pages 59 to 65 of Commission’s Exhibit No. 1).
Based on the fact that 575 Thayer Avenue was not licensed as a Rental
Facility as of March 6, 2002, and had been condemned by the Department as
unfit for human habitation, the Complainants did not move into or take
possession of 575 Thayer Avenue.
The Commission credits the testimony of the Complainants that since
approximately March 6, 2002, they have made repeated requests to the
Respondent for the return of all monies paid to him in connection with the
prospective rental of 575 Thayer Avenue, that the Respondent has failed to
respond to these requests and, as of the date of this hearing, had failed to
refund any portion of the $2,570.00 they paid him.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Accordingly, based upon a fair consideration of the
testimony and evidence contained in the record, the Commission on
Landlord-Tenant Affairs concludes:
Because the Respondent had no Rental Facility License for 575 Thayer Avenue he
could not rent the property to the Complainants in March 2002, and his attempt
to rent 575 Thayer Avenue without a Rental Facility License violates Chapter
29, Article III, “Licensing of Rental Housing,” of the County Code and
violates the Commission’s February 25, 2002 Decision and Order affirming the
revocation of his Rental Facility License, and has caused a defective tenancy.
Because 575 Thayer Avenue contained serious violations of the Housing Code and
had been condemned by the Department as unfit for human habitation, because
the Respondent had no Rental Facility License, and because the Respondent
should not have been operating 575 Thayer Avenue as a rental facility, the
Complainants were within their rights to decide not to take possession of the
575 Thayer Avenue once they learned of the above facts.
Respondent’s demand for and collection of application fees, rent, a security
deposit, and a condominium fee from the Complainants for 575 Thayer Avenue and
his demand and collection of a security deposit for 3301 Hewitt Avenue, when
he had no Rental Facility License for either Property, constitutes the
operation of a rental facility without a valid Rental Facility License, in
violation of Chapter 29, Article III, “Licensing of Rental Housing,” of the
County Code, and has caused a defective tenancy.
In view of the foregoing, The Commission on
Landlord-Tenant Affairs hereby orders that the Respondent must pay the
Complainants $2,570.00, which sum represents the entire amount
of the Complainants’ security deposit, rent, condominium fee, and application
Commissioner Daryl Steinbraker, Commissioner
Kwaku Ofori and Commissioner Jeffrey Burritt, Panel Chairperson, concurred in
the foregoing decision unanimously.
To comply with this Order, Respondent,
Chukwujindu Victor Mbakpuo, must forward to the Office of Landlord-Tenant
Affairs, 100 Maryland Avenue, 4th Floor, Rockville, MD 20850, within thirty
(30) calendar days of the date of this Decision and Order, a check made
payable to Patricia John and Tricia John, in the full amount of $2,570.00.
The Respondent, Chukwujindu Victor Mbakpuo,
is hereby notified that Section 29-48 of the County Code declares that failure
to comply with this Decision and Order is punishable by a $500.00 civil fine
Class A violation as set forth in Section 1-19 of the County Code. This civil
fine may, at the discretion of the Commission, be imposed on a daily basis
until there is compliance with this Decision and Order.
In addition to the issuance of a Class A
civil citation and $500.00 civil fine, should the Commission determine that
the Respondent has not, within thirty (30) calendar days of the date
of this Decision and Order, made a bona fide effort to
comply with the terms of this Decision and
Order, it may also refer the matter to the Office of the
County Attorney for additional legal enforcement.
Any party aggrieved by this action of the
Commission may file an administrative appeal to the Circuit Court for
Montgomery County, Maryland within thirty (30) days from the date of this
Decision and Order, pursuant to the Maryland Rules governing administrative
appeals. Be advised that pursuant to Section 29-49 of the County Code, should
the Respondent choose to appeal the Commission’s Order, he must post a bond
with the Circuit Court in the amount of the award ($2,570.00) if he seeks a
stay of enforcement of this Order.
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Index of License Revocation Cases
Appendix L, “Regulations on the Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs,”
subsection 4.10, Postponement of hearing date, states, “Any party
for good cause shown may request a postponement of hearing date. Said
request of a hearing date shall be in writing whenever practicable. The
chairman of the commission shall rule on the request and advise all
parties of his decision.