McDaniel v. Baranowski

http://mdcourts.gov/opinions/coa/2011/64a10.pdf   McDaniel v. Baranowski is found at this link. Congratulations to Lisa Sarro and our former colleague Jer Welter for their excellent work. This case bars unlicensed landlords in those jurisdictions which require licenses from using the Failure to Pay Rent statute to repossess the premises. 

The District Court is already acting to amend the FTPR form to reflect the Court of Appeals decision which requires Landlords to affirmatively plead and demonstrate at the time of filing that they are licensed.  

The story behind the decision:

A housing client represented by the Anne Arundel County office received a favorable decision from the Court of Appeals on May 4 when it determined that a landlord who is not licensed (as required by local law) may not employ the summary ejectment procedure in a failure to pay rent case. The client was represented in the Court of Appeals by supervising attorney Lisa Sarro and by former staff attorney Jer Welter in the underlying district and circuit court proceedings. By the time the client sought our assistance, in May, 2009, the district court had already entered one judgment for possession of the property to the property owner based on the non-payment of the April, 2009 rent and had scheduled a hearing on a second complaint for failure to pay rent. Jer filed an Emergency Motion to Stay Eviction and to Revise Judgment and a Request for Rent Escrow, a Notice of Intention to Defend and Counterclaims (alleging violations of the Consumer Protection Act), and a Motion to Consolidate Cases.

The client alleged serious electrical and other defects in the apartment, which were substantiated by the fire department and the Anne Arundel County Department of Health. The property owner failed to remedy any of the defects until days before the May, 2009 trial. Additionally, the property owner did not have a current license to rent the dwelling unit to the client in accordance with county code requirements. The district court consolidated the cases, denied all of the client's motions, and entered judgment for possession in favor of the property owner. The decision was appealed (on the record) to the circuit court, which affirmed the district court judgment. Jer filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari (because the client's only appeal of right was to the circuit court) to the Court of Appeals, which agreed to hear the additional appeal. Lisa briefed and argued the case. The top court ordered that the judgments for possession of the premises be reversed.

"Congratulations to Lisa and Jer on this amazing result and their hard work on this case," said chief attorney Anita Bailey. "Although the court denied the client's request for monetary damages under the Consumer Protection Act, this is a huge victory. The record of these evictions would have been a substantial bar to the client's ability to obtain future housing. This is also a huge victory for tenants in Anne Arundel County and other jurisdictions that require licensure. This decision will require that landlords 'plead and demonstrate' that they have the required license before they file a failure to pay rent case. The district court forms will certainly require revision consistent with this decision, and officials from the district court have already indicated that such revision is being considered. As Helen Keller once said, 'When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.'  Congratulations to the whole Anne Arundel County office team for always 'doing their best!'"

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