Court overturns case of Ellicott City woman 2nd such case to go to appeals panel

October 19, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

An Ellicott City woman who successfully sued her landlords for a $24,000 refund after learning they did not have a permit to rent the property lost her award Wednesday in a ruling by the state Court of Appeals.

The suit is the second Howard County case of its type to go before the appeals court, which both times has overturned large awards to tenants. After the first award, in 1990, many worried landlords complained that they were unaware of the license, required for all rental properties in the county.

The Court of Appeals ruled last week that a tenant must prove specific losses or injuries under the Maryland Consumer Protection Act to receive damages. The fact that a property is not licensed is not sufficient, the court said.

In the case, Dale Snyder signed a one-year lease for a house in the 5100 block of Avoca Ave. in Ellicott City from landlords Larry and Marian Galola. Under the 1987 lease, she agreed to pay $1,200 a month. She continued to lease the house through November 1989.

In signing the lease, she agreed that the premises were in "good and satisfactory order and repair" after examining the house, according to court records.

But Ms. Snyder complained to the county Bureau of Inspections in June 1989 that the house needed repairs that had not been made by the Galolas, court documents say.

A housing inspector went to the house and found cracked walls, loose plaster, broken windows, a defective air-conditioning unit, a defective wood stove, insufficient heat, improper drainage, and water in the basement, records say.

The county then notified the Galolas that they did not have the required license, records say. Once the permit application is filed, a county housing inspector visits the property to assure that basic housing standards are met.

When the Galolas sought the license, the county denied the request because of the needed repairs.

When Ms. Snyder refused to pay rent for the last four months of the lease, the Galolas filed suit against her seeking back rent.

In a counterclaim, Ms. Snyder demanded $24,000 in restitution for the rent, citing the Galolas' failure to obtain the proper license, records say.

On appeal before the state Court of Special Appeals, the tenants' case has been upheld twice only to be overturned by the Court of Appeals.

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