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Tenant association leader fights off landlord’s attempted eviction

Maryland’s anti-retaliation law in action

January 27, 2015:  Felicia Lockett is a dedicated advocate for her neighbors at the Bristol House Apartments in Baltimore’s Park Heights neighborhood. For the past three years, she’s visited neighbors, providing information about community services and helping them understand their bills. As a member of the Bristol House Tenants Association, she represents the association in meetings with the landlord, Blue Ocean Realty.

After a series of difficult meetings between the tenants association and management about the building’s master meter utility billing system, Ms. Lockett suddenly received a “non-renewal of lease” notice from the landlord. This seemed like a drastic reaction to her efforts to stand up for resident interests. A few weeks later, Blue Ocean filed a court case to evict her.

But Ms. Lockett had the law to back her up. In 2011 and 2014, the Public Justice Center and a coalition of advocates successfully urged the Maryland General Assembly to strengthen the state’s retaliatory eviction law. Thanks to people like you who called on legislators to support the bill, the law now provides both a defense and a claim for money damages to tenants facing the threat of eviction because they participated in a tenant organization. The law also protects tenants who complain about lease violations or poor housing conditions.

With the Public Justice Center’s representation, Ms. Lockett challenged the eviction case, alleging that Blue Ocean Realty’s actions were retaliation for working with the tenants association. While she lost the case in the District Court, she prevailed on appeal. The Circuit Court for Baltimore City denied Blue Ocean Realty’s eviction case and awarded money damages to Ms. Lockett. This victory brings her incredible relief and upholds the right of the tenants association to seek changes that benefit the residents of Bristol House Apartments.
 



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