Can I Sue for Unpaid Rent After Evicting a Tenant?

Maryland law often seems like it’s on the tenant’s side more often than the landlord’s.

This can suggest that there have been or perhaps still are terrible property owners and property managers. Otherwise, why would there be so many specific regulations on the books to protect renters from unsafe living conditions, unreasonably high rent and extra fees, and abusive behavior?

The state’s Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s office has even published a brochure especially for renters, filled with several scenarios in which a bad landlord does things or threatens to take actions that they’re not legally supposed to, and what can be done about it. Maryland Legal Aid has issued a similar guide explaining what property owners can and shouldn’t do.

That isn’t to say, however, that bad tenants don’t exist, or that property owners lack power. In fact, housing laws have evolved to the point that landlords just need to follow certain legal protocol when dealing with problematic renters.

The fundamentals of the rental process haven’t changed. If a landlord decides that a tenant’s conduct effectively breaks a lease, then he or she has the right to take steps to evict the tenant. Likewise, if severe damage has occurred to the property, the landlord can use some or all of the damage deposit to pay for repairs.

But defining some of these specific circumstances, such as disruptive conduct, is where things can get tricky. Just as renters are encouraged to check with an attorney if they feel they’ve been treated unfairly, it is also recommended that a landlord seek legal counsel to make sure they’re following proper legal protocols.

The law offices of Matthew S. Evans III will be happy to provide legal advice for property owners, whether litigation is required, or steps can be taken to resolve matters before it gets to this point. Our trusted Maryland real estate attorneys are experienced with rental contracts, lease agreements, and related litigation at a state level plus municipalities such as Annapolis and Washington, D.C., where different local rules may apply.

The Eviction Process

Maryland has three main ways a renter can be evicted:

  • “Breach of lease” for conduct that’s not permitted such as illegal activity or extra roommates
  • “Holding over,” which means refusing to leave when a lease term ends
  • Failure to pay rent over a prolonged period of time

For an eviction to be successful, a landlord must request a court hearing to prove one or all of these conditions have been met. If a judge concurs that a violation or violations have occurred, the landlord can file a notice of eviction/warrant of restitution within five days. This requires arranging the services of a representative from the county sheriff’s office to remove the tenant or prevent them from returning.

More options

The act of evicting a particularly difficult tenant can be satisfying – you never have to interact with that person again, and it also can open the door for a potentially better tenant with more positive behavior that also pays their rent more reliably. However, some former tenants may still owe money, especially since rent can actually still be charged from the time a judgment is filed against them to when they actually leave the premises.

While it’s easy to reflexively want to say, “just keep it, provided you never bother me again,” due to all the legal hassle you’ve been through, a Maryland real estate attorney may assist you in recovering unpaid rent, interest, any related fees or even court costs.

This can take several forms.

  • Property owners can deduct any unpaid rent or other stated charges from the damage deposit before it’s returned.
  • A judge can authorize a financial judgment against the tenant, but the tenant needs to be properly served and advised to attend a hearing on this topic.

There’s no rush on seeking these funds either: the State of Maryland has a three-year statute of limitations for someone to pursue financial compensation for a broken contract.

Property owners who wish to discuss a challenging rental situation are encouraged to discuss with Matthew S. Evans III and his team. Contact us today for a consultation at (410) 626-6009.

What is Maryland’s Homestead Tax Credit?

Owning a home is something that most people take pride in – most homeowners have to work hard in order to afford the home in the first place, as well as maintain it over the years. In fact, the effort that goes into buying a home is one of the things that can make the idea of filing for bankruptcy and losing one’s home so scary.

However, homestead exemptions and protections–which are set in place at both the federal and the state level–are designed to protect equity in your home from certain types of creditors. The following provides an overview of Maryland’s homestead laws, and important things you need to know if you are a homeowner who is filing for bankruptcy.

The Federal Homestead Exemption

Filing for bankruptcy is something that no one ever wants to think about doing. However, for those who are struggling to stay afloat under mountains of debt, filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be the only option.

If you are filing for bankruptcy and have equity in your home (which means that your home is valued at an amount that is greater than what you owe on it), federal homestead laws may allow you to keep that equity. The federal homestead exemption amount is $23,675 in equity for 2017.

How It Works

If you own your home and have equity, you can protect that equity up to the federal amount (note: the federal limit doubles for married couples). Consider an example in which you are filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and have $100,000 worth of equity in your home. The federal exemption amount is $23,675, which means that the trustee can sell your home and use the profits to pay creditors. However, the trustee would still have to pay you the amount you were able to exempt ($23,675).

Maryland Homestead Laws

In Maryland, the homestead exemption amount is the same as the federal amount – $23,675. However, the state of Maryland unfortunately does not allow couples who are filing bankruptcy together to double their homestead exemption.

It is also important to note that in Maryland, the homestead exemptions only applies when:

  • The property is realproperty, which could mean a home, a condo, or a co-op; and
  • You are occupying the property – if you do not own the property or do not live within it, you cannot protect the equity in it.

You can also only claim the homestead exemption during bankruptcy once every eight years.

Maryland Homestead Protection – Property Held as Tenancy

The federal homestead protection is no doubt a boon for homeowners with equity who are in a position where they need to file for bankruptcy. However, in Maryland, there may be an even more advantageous way of keeping equity in one’s home. Indeed, when property is held as tenancy in Maryland (which means that you and your spouse own it as a married couple rather than as two separate individuals), creditors cannot take it in order to pay any debt that is owned by just one of you. For example, if your spouse has a huge amount of credit card debt that is only in their name and that you are not individually liable for, a creditor could not take your home in order to settle the debt.

Maryland Homestead Tax Credit

In addition to the Maryland homestead exemption for debtors filing for bankruptcy, the state also has a homestead tax credit. As explained by the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, the homestead tax credit limits the increase in taxable assessments each year to a fixed percentage. In order to establish eligibility for this credit, a homeowner must submit a one-time application.

Contact an Experienced Attorney to Learn More About Homestead Laws in Maryland

If you find yourself in a position where the equity in your home is in jeopardy, you should not hesitate to contact an experienced Maryland homestead law attorney. You can reach our law offices for your initial consultation by sending us a message, or calling us directly at 410-626-6009. We look forward to working with you.

Airbnb Impacting Housing in Washington D.C.

There is a worsening housing crisis in the District, and city regulators are attempting to ease the pressure on homebuyers and tenants by cracking down on short-term rentals. There are more than 31,000 hotel rooms in Washington D.C. alone, yet it has become increasingly popular for tourists and business travelers to seek lodging through services like Airbnb. The question remains whether the proposed regulations will improve the situation for future residents or hurt some existing homeowners.

How Home-Sharing Might Help Some Residents

Let’s face it – living in the District is expensive. In the past year alone, it has become $5,000 more expensive to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Washington D.C. A resident in the District would need to make $69,840 a year to afford one of these apartments if they spent one-third of their income on housing. Even though the city is seeing an increase in housing construction, it isn’t of the affordable variety. This is where home-sharing comes into the picture for many D.C. residents.

For many people living in expensive housing markets like Washington D.C., home sharing has become a sort of lifeline. Hosts that open up rooms in their homes, or that are able to rent out their entire homes for weeks out of the year, can earn thousands of dollars that they apply to rent, mortgage payments, debt, retirement savings, and other living expenses.

From Home-Sharing to Illegal Hotels

That extra cash earned by legitimate homeowners has unfortunately caught the eye of some investors. This is where the District is seeing a potential squeeze resulting from affordable housing being pulled from the market in favor of short-term rentals. For example, 20 rent-controlled homes in Columbia Heights were converted into a privately-owned full-time Airbnb operation. An Armenian company has snapped up 70 homes in the District and converted them into illegal hotel rooms. There is an open lawsuit against this group courtesy of the District’s Attorney General. Another rent-controlled apartment building in Adams Morgan was found to have Airbnb listings for eight of its twelve units going back as far as 2015.

Will D.C.’s Proposed Regulations Help or Hurt?

The difference between home-sharing and illegal hotels is drastic. The new regulations proposed by Council of the District of Columbia will regulate both. Called the “Short-term Rental Regulation and Affordable Housing Protection Act of 2017,” this law will hand oversight of the District’s short-term rentals to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).

If passed, the bill will mandate some of the strictest short-term rental restrictions in the nation. Airbnb renters will have to consent to safety inspections of their properties. They will be required to register as a short-term rental and have the permits and licenses required by the city. If Airbnb renters report any concerns about the property, the ability to list short-term rentals in the District could be suspended. Rentals will only be permitted in a host’s permanent residence, and hosts are limited to 15 rental nights per year when they are not present. Fines for violating the regulations can range from $1,000 for the first offense to $7,000 for repeat offenders.

While safety will be improved for short-term rentals, the debate over the new DCRA regulation centers on how it is going to affect the city’s supply of affordable housing. Airbnb reports that 90 percent of its Washington D.C. hosts share space in their own homes. Airbnb worked with the Coalition for Neighborhood Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) to study its usage in the District. Their study found that just 2 percent of the entire District’s housing stock is listed on the platform. Of those only 0.22 percent, or 670 units, are rented for more than 50 percent of the year. CNHED’s Executive Director Stephen Glaude doesn’t believe that home-sharing in itself is impacting affordable housing prices in the District.

As a compromise, it may be a better solution to regulate the number of entire homes that can be leased as short-term rentals within the District. This can be limited as a percentage of total listings. There can also be limits on the number of days that a homeowner or renter can lease their home each year. Both of these would be deterrents to commercial enterprises converting affordable housing into short-term rentals for the sake of profits. In most cases, people are sharing their homes to avoid foreclosure or eviction. While Washington D.C. has an affordable housing issue, developers and regulators likely share the blame as opposed to individual Airbnb hosts.

Contact an Experienced Maryland Real Estate and Construction Law Attorney

If you have questions about your rights as a homebuyer, tenant, or developer, contact the Evans Law LLC to schedule a free consultation. Our real estate and construction attorneys serve clients throughout the Maryland and Washington D.C. area. We can be reached at (410) 626-6009.

The Current State of Residential Home Building

Home buyers in some of this nation’s biggest housing markets are finding themselves in bidding wars as the supply of available homes begins to slow. Reuters reports that housing starts in May 2017 dropped 5.5 percent to their lowest level since September 2016. Home builders are increasingly attempting to move away from luxury housing in favor of more affordable options, but many are finding that they face obstacles in the form of zoning regulations and other market factors.

The Current State of Residential Home Building

According to a recent report from USA Today, housing construction is currently 35 percent below normal levels nationwide. This is particularly the case with starter homes and what is considered to be affordable housing in many markets. This deficit is not only making homes more difficult to find, but it is also driving up prices to the tune of about 40 percent over the past five years.

There is little doubt that Americans are increasingly looking for more affordable housing and starter homes. It’s also true that homebuilders have become more willing to shift their focus from luxury housing to affordable units to fill that demand. The main culprit behind these alarming numbers is the fact that home builders are now faced with so many regulatory, zoning, and environmental requirements, that meeting the current demand is becoming more and more difficult.

Take Seattle, for example. One builder wanted to construct as many as 36 affordable homes in a Seattle suburb, but zoning changes would only permit them to build 25. The market conditions in this area have squeezed supply to the point that these “affordable” homes would need to sell for $1.2 million each to give the builder a profit.

In fact, regulations are stifling home builders to the point that affordable housing units are disappearing from the market. The National Association of Homebuilders reports that regulatory costs to build a home have increased 30 percent from 2011 to 2016, now averaging about $85,000 per home. Areas of the country with the most regulations and the fewest starter homes include Seattle, Boston, Denver, and Baltimore.

Homebuilders that want to build new developments today not only need to obtain zoning approval, but they also must meet energy-efficiency and environmental standards. Some cities and towns have increased their minimum lot size and have put requirements in place for such things as wider roads and more open spaces. State and federal regulations mandate that wetlands and more than 1,400 endangered or threatened species be protected.

Regulations aren’t the only reason that supply is sluggish around the country. Homebuilders are facing lot shortages for new home construction as well as a lack of qualified construction workers in some markets. Even though the demand for housing is present, these supply factors are driving up prices and causing bidding wars in some of the nation’s largest markets. Since the housing crash that spawned the Great Recession, many lenders are also more cautious with mortgage decisions, and developers tend to avoid riskier projects that might deliver affordable housing units.

Residential Housing Market in Washington D.C.

If you want to buy a home in the D.C.-area, the choices in affordable housing are becoming even more scarce than in the past. The Washington Post recently attempted to locate homes inside the beltway for $800,000 or less, and they labeled their efforts a “challenge.” Homes that used to be in this price range are now priced upwards of $1 million. Those who do own homes in the area are holding onto them in the fear that they won’t be able to find something else comparable to buy.

Some real estate experts believe that the influx of wealth into our nation’s capital is unbalancing the scales in its real estate market. Since 2009, the average price of a Washington home has skyrocketed 40.3 percent to $680,449. In the first five months of the new administration, real estate prices in the D.C. area have gone up 7.14 percent, the fastest pace since 2010.

Home ownership continues to be a cornerstone of our nation and one of the things that differentiates the U.S. from many other countries around the world. While there are some critical programs in place to encourage home ownership and the pursuit of the American Dream, more detail should be paid to the local, state, and federal regulations that are preventing homebuilders from delivering affordable housing units to willing buyers.

Contact An Experienced Maryland Real Estate and Construction Law Attorney

For more information about our real estate and construction law service throughout the Maryland and Washington D.C. area, contact Evans Law, LLC to schedule a free consultation. You can reach our office at (410) 626-6009.

Construction Defects in Maryland: What Homeowners Need to Know

As a homeowner, it can be very disheartening to learn that your home is suffering from a construction defect. While you may have the right to seek money damages from the careless home builders who caused the defect, some Maryland homeowners have been dismayed to find that they waited too long to bring a claim against those responsible and no longer had a right to do so. Read on to learn about the main categories of construction defect, and the strict limits that Maryland imposes on claims for construction defect damages.

Construction defect claims, defined

Legal claims based on construction defects are largely divided into two categories: patent and latent defects. Patent defects are those that are immediately identifiable or obvious to an observer, such as a home built with three bedrooms when the contract called for two, or a poorly-constructed roof that is collapsing. Latent defects are those which can’t be seen immediately, such as the use of an inappropriate type of cement for the house’s foundation which will eventually crack.

Defects can also be divided into defects of design and those of workmanship. When the designer or architect of the home either makes an error in designing an element of the house, or erroneously omits an element of the home in their designs, then the designer can be held liable for the resulting defect. If the contractor fails to properly follow the designs when constructing some element of the home, or otherwise poorly executes an element of the home’s construction, then this will be considered a workmanship defect and can result in liability for the contractor.

Maryland’s Statute of Repose 

In many areas of the law, when harm caused by negligence isn’t immediately apparent, a victim of negligence is allowed to file a lawsuit within a certain number of years of learning of the negligence. In other words, if a homeowner didn’t learn that their home’s foundation was improperly laid until 15 years after it was built, then the time limit on when they could file suit would only begin to run when they discovered the foundation’s defect. However, Maryland has strict rules on when a homeowner can sue based on a construction defect. Maryland’s Statute of Repose bars homeowners from suing a builder for negligence more than 20 years after a home is built. This law also bars homeowners from suing negligent architects or engineers more than 10 years after a home was defectively designed. These limits apply regardless of when the defect was discovered by the homeowner, or when the homeowner came to own the house in question. As a result, homeowners must be proactive in properly inspecting their home for any defects and following up on any leaks or cracks that form so that they learn of defects before the time runs out to bring a claim.

If you have learned of a construction defect in your Maryland home, find out if you have a claim for damages against a negligent designer or builder by contacting the knowledgeable and effective Annapolis real estate and construction attorneys at the Law Offices of Matthew S. Evans III at 410-626-6009.

What to Expect at Your Real Estate Closing in Maryland

Purchasing a piece of real estate, whether a residential property where you plan to live for years, or a commercial property where you hope to build your business, is likely to be one of the single largest purchases you make in your lifetime. You want to be sure that the investment is sound and that the transaction is entirely fair and legal. The settlement, or closing, is the final step in a real estate purchase. In many ways it can be the most important. Read on to learn more about what happens at a real estate closing, and contact an experienced Maryland settlement company to handle your real estate purchase.

Key steps prior to settlement

Prior to closing on your home or commercial property, your title company will conduct a search on the title of your property. This search, when conducted thoroughly, will help you learn of any complications with the title that could present legal issues for you down the road if not addressed prior to closing. Purchasing title insurance is an additional safeguard against future disputes caused by claims to ownership or of liens against your home. Under federal law, the buyer is the party who selects the title or settlement company to oversee the closing. Choosing a settlement company you can trust will help you feel confident in the transaction and in the soundness of your title.

You’ll also receive a closing disclosure several days before you close on your mortgage loan. This document will outline the terms of your loan and how much you can expect to pay per month, as well as all the fees and costs entailed in your closing, commonly known as “closing costs.” Your lender is required to provide the closing disclosure at least three days before you close on your loan. Receiving this document in advance provides you with the opportunity to be sure you understand it, and that you get to ask any questions you may have after reading it.

What happens at the closing

The settlement process itself is the straightforward culmination of weeks of negotiation, inspection, and applications. The most important thing you’ll do at a real estate closing is make your purchase official by signing documents—many, many documents. You’ll need to bring official identification to ensure that the documents are officially notarized. You’ll also need to provide a cashier’s check or to have wired the funds that make up the remaining portion of your down payment and closing costs. The seller will sign the deed transferring ownership of the home to you. You’ll also sign both a note, describing the terms of your mortgage, and a deed of trust, the document that establishes the house as collateral for your mortgage.

If you are searching for an experienced and trustworthy attorney to assist with your Maryland real estate closing, contact the Evans Law for a consultation, at 401-626-6009.

Condo Owners, Do You Know What Your Insurance Covers?

Condo ownership can bring with it the investment value of owning a home, while also bringing the advantages of communal living. There are unique aspects of owning a condominium that every Maryland condo dweller should understand. Possibly chief among these is the subject of insurance.

Master and individual condo insurance policies

There are typically two forms of insurance that cover a condominium: a master policy purchased by the condo’s association, as well as an individual, or HO-6, policy that covers each unit. The two different policies cover the following:

Master association insurance policy

Under the Maryland Condominium Act, condo associations are obligated to purchase a master policy that covers any damage to common areas, the building structure, and individual units, aside from improvements to the unit made after the developer transferred the unit to the first owner.

When damage occurs to areas covered by the master policy, the association will typically distribute the cost of the deductible among the owners in the association. However, when damage originates from a single unit, the owner of that unit will be responsible for paying up to $5,000 toward the master policy’s deductible. The owner will bear this cost regardless of whether they did anything wrong to cause the damage. For example, whether a fire was started by a defective electronic device in your unit, or by a candle you let burn while you weren’t at home, you would be obligated to pay the deductible after damage occurred to other units. When damage originates from outside of the unit, but merely passes through your unit while on the way to other units, you will not be held responsible for the deductible.

Individual HO-6 policy

These policies cover any improvements you make to your individual unit, such as the value of flooring you had installed or appliances you purchased, as well as the value of your personal property. These policies must be purchased by individual condo owners, and can be made to include the cost of the master association deductible in the event that damage to other units originates in your unit.

Common element or not?

Legal complexities can arise when damage is caused by something that may or may not be a common element. One common example is flooding damage. Let’s say a pipe breaks within your walls, causing flooding damage to your own unit as well as surrounding units. Under certain circumstances, the pipe may be considered a common element of the building, and not of your particular unit. In this case, you would not be held responsible for the deductible. The condo association may argue that the pipe broke due to your negligence, or that the pipe is not, in fact, a common element, making the deductible your responsibility. In these cases, you may benefit from consulting with a knowledgeable Maryland real estate attorney to determine how to proceed.

For assistance with a legal issue regarding home ownership, homeowner’s associations, or another Maryland real estate issue, contact the seasoned and knowledgeable Annapolis real estate attorneys at the Law Offices of Matthew S. Evans III for a consultation, at 410-626-6009.

Reverse Mortgage Companies Issued Major Fine for Deceptive Practices

We have previously discussed the merits and risks of reverse mortgages in a prior post on our blog. While much of the negative reputation that reverse mortgage purveyors carry is outdated, there are still numerous risks involved in taking out a reverse mortgage on the equity you’ve built up in your home. In order to avoid going into a reverse mortgage with an incomplete understanding of how they work, it is critical to speak with an objective and experienced real estate attorney about the advantages and disadvantages of a reverse mortgage. Unfortunately, not all consumers have taken this step of ensuring that they fully understand the process and risks, and many of the seniors who are eligible to take out a reverse mortgage have been victimized by companies making false promises about the products they offer.

Earlier this month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) demanded that three different companies offering reverse mortgages withdraw their misleading advertisements. These ads promised that consumers could never lose their homes after obtaining a reverse mortgage—promises that the companies should never have made. The three companies were also fined nearly $800,000 for the misleading advertisements they had already run due to the advertisements’ failure to comply with federal regulations.

The three companies targeted by the CFPB were: American Advisors Group, the country’s largest reverse-mortgage lender; Reverse Mortgage Solutions; and Aegean Financial, which also goes by the name Jubilados Financial when advertising to Spanish-speaking seniors in California. According to CFPB officials, the companies asserted in their advertisements that homeowners could borrow against their home’s equity and “always retain ownership,” and that they “can’t be forced to leave.” CFPB director Richard Cordray stated, “These companies tricked consumers into believing they could not lose their homes with a reverse mortgage. All mortgage brokers and lenders need to abide by federal advertising disclosure requirements in promoting their products.” The advertisements also promised that reverse mortgages could be obtained without incurring any fees, despite the fact that borrowers would incur title insurance fees, appraisal fees, credit report fees, government mortgage insurance fees, and additional closing costs.

If you are considering taking out a substantial loan against the equity in your home, or are planning to make another major real estate transaction in Maryland and wish to be sure your interests are protected, contact the experienced and dedicated Annapolis real estate lawyer Matthew S. Evans III for a consultation at 410-626-6009.

Leasing Out Your First Rental Unit in Maryland

So, you’ve become a landlord! Whether you stumbled into renting by wanting to make income off of property you no longer inhabit, or bought a home or apartment building with the specific intention of renting it out, you want to get the job done right, and avoid as much legal trouble as possible. Here are some guidelines and pitfalls you’ll want to keep in mind as you embark into the world of renting and leasing property.

The Lease

Put your lease in writing. While it is legal to have an oral lease if the term of the lease is under a year long, it’s a good idea to have all terms of the agreement in writing, so that both parties can rely on those terms. Leases must be in writing if you have five or more units for rent in the state of Maryland, or where the lease term is a year or more long. The lease should also note what utilities, if any, you’re planning to cover, and which ones should be covered by the tenant. While you may wish to reuse a lease for multiple tenants, it would be in your best interest to have an attorney experienced in landlord/tenant law draft your initial lease. Be prepared to give your tenant a final copy of the lease in advance of the tenant signing it to allow for a review of all terms.

Security Deposit

Under Maryland law, a security deposit cannot exceed two months’ rent. Charging more than this amount could lead to imposition of a high penalty. You are required to give the tenant a receipt upon payment of the deposit, which must detail the tenant’s entitlement to a list of the existing defects or damage to the rental unit, if the tenant requests it within 15 days of moving in. Failure to provide this list upon request could lead to another stiff penalty. Maryland requires that landlords place security deposits in an escrow account, and pay certain levels of interest on those deposits depending on when the unit was first rented. An attorney can help you determine what you would owe in interest on your tenant’s security deposit

Collecting Rent

Should your tenant pay rent in cash on a residential unit, be prepared to offer the tenant a receipt for payment, as the tenant is entitled to a receipt under the law. If the tenant fails to pay rent on time, you may impose a penalty. However, there are limits to the percentage of the monthly rent amount you can impose as a late payment penalty. There is also a bar to evicting a tenant with less than 30 days’ notice, even if you have included this as a term in the lease.

There are many other rules and guidelines which must be followed if you’re a Maryland landlord, including those regarding what may be deducted from a security deposit, rules regarding lead paint in older properties, and rules on eviction. Consult with an attorney who knows landlord/tenant law before you rent out your property. Contact the Annapolis Law offices of Matthew S. Evans III, LLC, at 410-626-6009.

Matthew Evans, Esq. Representing Plaintiffs in “Snake House” Case

When a young family recently settled on a house in the Beechwood on the Burley neighborhood of St. Margaret’s, they were unaware of a snake infestation that would quickly drain their checkbook and drop their house value.

The Law Office of Matthew Evans III is representing the family as they try to recoup their losses and provide a safe home for their two young children. Jeff and Jody Brooks purchased their home in December, 2014 and lived uneventfully through the cold winter months, unaware that black rat snakes were hibernating quietly within the walls and rafters of their home. As the warm spring days approached, sounds above their heads and sightings of snakes around the house began to raise their suspicions that something was very wrong.

Snakes, snake skins and scat (snake droppings) began to appear in the basement and around the house as the snakes became active again. After seeking help from a local pest control company, it became obvious that they were dealing with an infestation beyond their means: “I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Stephen Kulp, manager of an Annapolis branch of Home Paramount in an interview with the Capital Gazette. For the safety of their children, they packed up and moved in with Jody’s mother down the street.


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Matthew Evans III is a leading real estate lawyer serving the Annapolis area. Experienced in Maryland real estate law, Mr. Evans will address the issues of full disclosure and whether the seller of the property was in violation of this when the home was sold to the Brooks’ last year. At issue is the potential complete loss of the value of the home if it is deemed uninhabitable and in need of a complete tear down and rebuild.

The case is currently pending a court date in the State of Maryland.