Tenant in duplex to fight eviction Housing group offers help, writes letter to landlord/legislator

August 09, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

A tenant living in a subsidized Westminster duplex owned by Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale said yesterday he will fight in court if she tries to evict him, his wife and their 7-year-old twins.

Keith A. Fahnestock said Stocksdale told him Monday she would evict the family rather than make the extensive repairs a county housing inspector said were necessary if Stocksdale continues to rent to subsidized tenants.

Stocksdale, a 5th District Republican serving her first term in the House of Delegates, has not returned messages left at her home and office the past three days.

Fahnestock said yesterday that a private, nonprofit tenants' rights group that advocates "justice in housing" has offered to help him and has written a letter to Stocksdale on his behalf.

Patricia S. Staples, a caseworker at Baltimore Neighborhoods zTC Inc., told Stocksdale in a letter Tuesday that state law prohibits landlords from taking "retaliatory actions" against tenants who file complaints against them.

"A landlord may not evict, may not increase the rent, may not decrease services to which a tenant is entitled solely because tenant or his agent has filed a written complaint with the landlord or with a public agency against the landlord," Staples said. "In addition, it is against the policy of the State of Maryland to evict a tenant because the property needs repairs. Professional landlords do not do so."

The caseworker ended her letter saying that Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. "attempts to settle tenant-landlord disputes in as fair and friendly a way as possible and without recourse to legal action. We do, however, have cooperating lawyers who will help if necessary."

Fahnestock said Stocksdale told him Monday when collecting his $550 monthly rent that she could not afford to make repairs and that the family would have to move if they were "unhappy with the condition of the property."

Yesterday, however, a contractor was repairing a hole in the roof and the crumbling concrete steps leading to the Augusta Avenue house and was applying cement to gaps in the brickwork.

Steve Meyer, the owner of Early American Homes, said he has known Stocksdale since he built her home on Ridge Road near Westminster.

Meyer said the legislator asked him to look at her rental property last week. He said he is beginning with the roof and gutters and will make other repairs as soon as possible.

Among the items needing repair, according to a July 2 report by the Carroll County Bureau of Housing and Community Development, are a rotted wooden soffit and fascia in the back of the house, gutters that are "falling off," and holes in the back wall where stucco is missing.

"The violations are not my main concern," Fahnestock said. "It is the way we have been treated. We did not report the violations, and the house is still livable. We would be happy with her apologizing."

Fahnestock said he has not spoken with Stocksdale since Monday.

"At this point, I'm not sure what she's going to do," he said. His worst fear is that she will make the repairs and then evict the family, which has a month-to-month lease.

Stocksdale's home inspection problems began when she asked the housing office to check her rental property for insect infestation.

Inspector Robert Martin said in the July 2 letter to Stocksdale that he did not find any evidence of live insects, but "did find some items that fail the Housing Quality Standards." He gave her 45 days to make repairs, "since there is extensive work to be done."

Stocksdale would have to make the repairs only if the tenants receive a subsidy. State and federal laws require minimum livability standards for subsidized rental units. Since April, Fahnestock has been receiving a $200 monthly subsidy to help with his $550 rent.

Pub Date: 8/09/96

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