Landlords Lighthizer, Brown are sued by former tenant

February 03, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

Two members of the governor's Cabinet are being sued by a woman who alleges that they failed to maintain a waterfront home she rented from them and suggested that it came with a pier that actually belongs to a neighbor.

Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer and Natural Resources Secretary Dr. Torrey C. Brown are named as co-defendants in a suit that seeks $170,000 in compensatory damages for negligence and $170,000 for breach of contract.

The two men jointly own a home in the 200 block of Kirkley Road outside Annapolis, which they have rented out for four years. Mr. Lighthizer could not be reached yesterday, but Dr. Brown denied the allegations.

The suit was filed recently in Anne Arundel Circuit Court by Dale Snyder, an insurance consultant now living in Severn. It alleges that her problems began shortly after she moved into the house on Oct. 1, 1989, and continued until she moved out the following Sept. 30 -- a year before the two-year lease expired.

Ms. Snyder alleges that the heating and air conditioning system didn't work properly, that the toilet leaked, and that there were problems with the oven, stove, dishwasher, washing machine, telephone wiring and front steps.

Her suit says the heating and air conditioning system failed in February of 1990, leaving the house frigid in winter and oven-like in summer. Ms. Snyder alleges that the conditions during the summer worsened her daughter Vicki's cystic fibrosis.

Brick steps in the front of the house were "not repaired in a timely or competent manner," the suit adds, and as a result Ms. Snyder fell in June 1990 and was hurt seriously enough that she needed medical treatment and lost time from work.

The suit also says that the landlords intentionally misrepresented the size of the back yard when Ms. Snyder signed the lease, suggesting that it was larger than it is and that it included a boat pier that belongs to a neighbor.

The rent for the house, which is along the Weems Creek and cost $424,000 when purchased four years ago, was to be $1,450 a month for the first year and $1,550 the second year.

Dr. Brown said there was never any misrepresentation, and that any maintenance problems were addressed. "Absolutely, we kept it up, no question," he said, noting that there have been no problems with other tenants.

Dr. Brown pointed out that the suit is similar to one Ms. Snyder filed in 1991, which was dismissed because she took no action on the complaint for a year. "I'm totally mystified" as to why she refiled the suit, he said.

Ms. Snyder was unavailable yesterday, but her attorney, Harvey S. Wasserman, said she refiled the complaint because she still feels strongly that she was wronged.

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