|Commission on Landlord Tenant Affairs
SUMMARIES OF DECISIONS AND ORDERS
This page contains summaries of miscellaneous decisions and orders. 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 Number||Name||Date Issue Ordered||Prevailing Party/Award|
|Case #13286||Colespring Plaza Tenants Assoc. v. Plaza Apts., LLC||January 15, 2004 and April 16, 2004||Tenants/$24,489|
|Case #25070||Fraser v. Tubelis||March 26, 2004|
|Case #24804||Karl Wollin vs. Leon Trager||August 4, 2003||Tenant/$1,076.09|
|Case #24441||Karl Wollin vs. Leon Trager||December 23, 2002||Tenant|
|Case # 11770||Heidi Forester and Amy Dunning vs. Joan Sterling||July 9, 2002||Dismissed|
|Case No. 11846||Seena Sussman v. Farimah Danesh||November 1, 2001||Tenant/no monetary award|
|Case No. 10588||Michael & Susan White v. Frank & Audrey Martino||March 19, 2001||Tenant/$220.00|
|Case No. 9936||Shirley & Roland Israel v. Fay Fan Lee||June 8, 2000||Tenant/$1,100.00|
CASE#13286, Colespring Plaza Tenants Association v. Plaza Apartments LLC
DATES ISSUED: January 15, 2004 (Part I); April 16, 2004 (Part II)
SUBJECTS: 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.
CASE SUMMARY #25070
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.
CASE SUMMARY - CASE NO. 24804 – Wollin v. Trager
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
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.
Case #24441, Karl Wollin vs. Leon Trager
Date 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.
#11770, Forster and Dunning v.
ISSUED: July 9, 2002
to offer a 2-year lease.
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
determining that the complaint was not susceptible to conciliation, the
Commission scheduled a public hearing, which commenced on
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.
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
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.
Case No. 11846, Sussman v. Danesh
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.
Case No. 10588 - White v. Martino
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.
Case No. 9936, Shirley
& Roland Israel v. Fay Fan Lee
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.