Court overturns ruling that favored tenant


October 19, 1992

ANNAPOLIS -- 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 last week in a ruling by the Court of Appeals.

The suit is the second Howard County case of its type to go before the appeals court, which has both times 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 Wednesday 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 on Avoca Avenue 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 it through Nov. 1989.

However, 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.

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, and a Circuit Court judge ruled in her favor.

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