Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs
for Montgomery County, Maryland
|In the Matter of
A. Scott Russo and Brandy L. Burkett
Case No. 2533
|Priscilla M. Wilson
Rental Facility: 18140 Chalet Drive, #304, Germantown, MD 20874
DECISION AND ORDER
The above captioned case having come before the Commission on Landlord Tenant Affairs for Montgomery County, Maryland, pursuant to Sections 29-14A, 29-38 and 29-40 of the Montgomery County Code 1994, as amended (the County Code), and the Commission having considered the testimony and evidence of record, it is, therefore, this 19th day of June, 1998, found, determined and ordered, as follows:
On January 28, 1997, Scott Russo and Brandy Burkett (the "Complainants"), former tenants at 18140 Chalet Drive, #304, Germantown, MD 20874 (the "Property"), a single-family dwelling in Montgomery County, Maryland owned by Priscilla M. Wilson (the "Respondent"), filed a formal complaint with the Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs within the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (the Department). The Complainants allege that the Respondent: 1) assessed unjust damages against their seven hundred and fifty dollar ($750.00) security deposit after termination of their tenancy; 2) failed to issue them an itemized list of damages, together with a statement of the cost actually incurred to repair that damage, within thirty (30) days after termination of their tenancy; 3) failed to refund their entire security deposit within forty-five (45) days after termination of their tenancy; and, 4) failed to refund interest accrued on their security deposit.
The Complainants sought the return of their entire security deposit in the amount of $750.00, plus accrued interest.
In response to the above-referenced allegations, the Respondent contended that: Complainants were notified by correspondence, dated November 20, 1996, that the Complainants' security deposit and accrued interest were used to offset unpaid additional condominium fees and for repair bills to Fred's Cleaning Service and BA Home Repairs in November of 1996. The Respondent also contended that she delivered the statements in support of these charges to the last known address of Complainants and that the damages exceeded the deposit and accrued interest.
After determining that the Complaint was not susceptible to conciliation, the Department referred this case to the Commission on Landlord Tenant Affairs (the "Commission") for its review. On September 2, 1997, the Commission received a case summary and determined to accept jurisdiction of the case and scheduled a hearing which commenced on December 17, 1997. The Commission extended the time period within which it would decide this matter pursuant to Section 7.1 of Appendix L, Regulations on Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs, of Chapter 29 of the County Code.
The record reflects that the parties were given adequate notice of the hearing date and time, and all parties were present at the hearing. The Respondent was represented by counsel.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Based on the testimony and evidence of record, the Commission makes the following findings of fact:
1. The Complainants and the Respondent entered into a one-year lease, dated September 1, 1995, for property known as 18140 Chalet Drive, #304, Germantown, MD 20874.
2. The Complainants paid the Respondent a security deposit in the amount of $750.00 at the commencement of the tenancy.
3. The lease term expired on September 31, 1996. Thereafter, the lease continued on a month to month basis until the parties mutually agreed to terminate the lease and vacate the Property on October 15, 1996.
4. The Respondent sent a letter, dated November 20, 1996, to the last known address for Complainants itemizing amounts which were being assessed by Respondent against the Complainants security deposit. The amounts claimed by the Respondent included accrued unpaid condominium fees in the amount of one hundred ten dollars ($110.00), repairs to the Property by BA Home Repairs in the amount of $478.00, cleaning expenses for the Property to Fred's Cleaning Service in the amount of $314.75, and 1/2 of a repair bill from Cook Heating and Cooling.
5. The credible testimony of the Respondent and her witness, Mr. Frederick Adams, established that the Property was in need of the repairs identified on the BA Home Repairs invoice dated November 1, 1996. The testimony of the Respondent and the affidavit of Bruce Codrington of BA Home Repairs established that Respondent actually incurred the cost of $478.00, and the testimony of Respondent and the corroborating testimony of Mr. Fred Adams persuaded us that the painting of window sills was necessitated by damage caused by Complainants' cat.
6. The damage to the window sills appeared to have been caused by a clawing of the surface.
7. Paragraph 37 of the Lease states, Tenant is responsible for Condominium/Cooperative Fee Increase. The Complainants failed to pay the increased condominium charges, $11.00 per month for 10 months (January - October 1997), which were actually incurred by the Respondent and paid by the Respondent.
8. The Respondent failed to show that Complainants were responsible for the charge of $90.00 for the "Heating" charges as these charges were the responsibility of the Respondent under the Lease.
9. The Respondent failed to show that the charge of $45.00 for cleaning the mini blinds in the Property was a reasonable charge to the Complainants beyond normal wear and tear.
10. The Respondent did not refund any of the Complainants security deposit.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1. The parties issued proper notices, each to the other, for the termination of the tenancy.
2. The Respondent did present by first class mail directed to the last known address of the Complainants, within thirty (30) days after the termination of their tenancy, a written list of the damages claimed against their security deposit, in accordance with'8-203(h)(1) of the Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. (1996 Repl. Vol.) (the State Code).
3. The Respondent did credit the Complainants' security deposit with 4% simple interest per annum ($30.00), and therefore, did not violate'8-203(f)(1) of the State Code.
4. The Property was damaged beyond normal wear and tear by the Complainants as a result of their tenancy, and the Respondent incurred actual expense to repair that damage, BA Home Repairs($478.00) and Fred's Cleaning Service ($314.75), in accordance with'8-203(g)(1) of the State Code.
5. The Complainants' failure to pay the increased condominium charges, in the amount of $110.00, which was their responsibility under the terms of the lease, caused the Respondent to incur the actual expense to pay them, and therefore, the Respondent was within her right to withhold that amount from the Complainants' security deposit.
6. The damages assessed against the Complainants' security deposit which were established to the Commission, BA Home Repairs($478.00), Fred's Cleaning Service ($314.75) and unpaid condominium charges ($110.00), exceeded the amount of the Complainants' security deposit ($750.00) plus one (1) year's accrued simple interest @ 4% ($30.00). Therefore, the Respondent did not violate '8-203(f)(4) of the State Code.
7. The Complainants failed to establish that the Respondent created a defective tenancy under Section 29-43 of the County Code.
In view of the foregoing, the Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs hereby finds that the Respondent has not caused a defective tenancy, and it is, therefore, Ordered that Case No. 2533, A. Scott Russo and Brandy Burkett v. Priscilla M. Wilson is DISMISSED.
The foregoing was concurred by the unanimous votes of all Commissioners present for the hearing, being Nadege Fevry, Martin Schnider, Jr., and Greg Smith, Panel Chair.
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 Chair
Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs