Four prospective rental tenants contacted Maryland Legal Aid’s Lower Eastern Shore office with similar stories about responding to a rental property advertisement posted by the same property owner. The properties were managed by the owner’s daughter who insisted that the prospective tenants had to pay a security deposit when they were shown the properties.
One property was shown to three different prospective tenants, and a second property was shown to the fourth prospective tenant. Both properties had been condemned and one had not been occupied for five years.
In each case, the owner’s daughter told the prospective tenants that the two properties would be ready for rental in a week or two. Each client faced their own financial challenges, but still managed to pay the required security deposits.
Having spent virtually all of the money each had saved for a house into which none could move, the clients had nowhere to go and eventually became homeless. The clients with children had to split up their families, placing some children with family members,thereby disrupting the children’s home life and progress in school.Afterwards, the tenants repeatedly called the owner’s daughter to find out whether the properties were ready for move-in; a client who was pregnant called the owner’s daughter shortly after giving birth to find out whether or not the property would be ready for her family. At first, the owner’s daughter reassured each client that the property would soon be ready for move-in, but eventually she stopped returning phone calls.
Staff attorney Lucia Alencherry filed four complaints and asked for the cases to be tried together. The request was granted, and each client prevailed. In total, the four clients were granted $12,478.70 in compensatory damages, $3,371.57 in punitive damages, and $4,000 in attorney fees.