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Morris v. Leon N. Weiner & Associates, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 27, 2017




         William D. Morris, III and Tsion Abdeta have filed this action against Leon N. Weiner & Associates, Inc. ("LNWA") alleging housing discriminaiion on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, familial status, and disability)[1] They also allege state common law claims of breach of contract and breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment. Pending before the Court is LNWAss Motion to Dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted.


         Beginning in 2014, Morris, a 57-year-old African American man with a disability, lived with his fiancee Abdeta, a 28-year-old African American woman born in Ethiopia, at Spellman House Apartmenss in College Park, Maryland. LNWA owns Spellman House Apartments, which charges below-market rate rent because the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") has subsidized the mortgage on the property or makes subsidy payments to LNWA. The residential lease agreement between Plaintiffs and Spellman House Apartments includes the following provisions:

         13. General Restrictions:... The Tenant agrees not to: ...

d. have pets or animals of any kind in the unit without the prior written permission of the Landlord, but the landlord will allow the tenant to keep an animal needed as a reasonable accommodaiion to the tenantss disability, and will allow animals to accompany visitors with disabilities who need such animals as an accommodaiion to their disabilities;

         21. Discriminaiion Prohibited: The Landlord agrees not to discriminate based upon race, color, religion, creed, National origin, sex, age, familial status, and disability.

         Lease ¶¶ 13, 21, PIs.' Opp'n Mot. Dismiss Exs. 2C-2E, ECF Nos. 25-5, 25-6, 25-7.

         During their tenancy at Spellman House Apartments, Plaintiffs objected to certain exchanges they had with property management and staff. First, James Chandler, a maintenance technician at Spellman House Apartments, "repeatedly insult[ed]" Morris "in the presence of other residents." Am. Compl. ¶ 39, ECF No. 18. On or about April 15, 2015, Plaintiffs wrote to the regional manager, Randy Emlet, who is white, to request that Chandler be terminated. LNWA did not fire him. Plaintiffs assert that the fact that they are African American "played a role" in Emletss decision not to terminate Chandler. Id. ¶ 41.

         On or about January 15, 2016, when Abdeta was in an elevator with Cecil, a maintenance contractor, Cecil asked her "So when are you two getting married?" in an apparent reference to Morris and Abdeta. Id. ¶¶ 43, 53. Morris informed Emlet and the property manager, April Pritchett, of the incident, but they did not fire Cecil. They likewise did not fire Cecil after Morris informed them of another incident, in which Cecil sprayed air freshener into Morrisss face, Morris sneezed, and Cecil screamed at Morris, "What did you say? What did you say?" in a "hostile, threatening manner." Id. ¶ 61.

         Plaintiffs also describe two other unwelcome interactions with Spellman House Apartmenss staff. First, beginning in March 2014, the maintenance supervisor, Michael Faulkner, greeted them on at least 50 occasions in common areas "by saying loudly 'Hey kids!'" Id. ¶ 42. According to Plaintiffs, the "vast majority of tenants at Spellman House Apartmenss are ' significantly older than Plaintiffs, " and they have never heard Faulkner address older residents with "Hey old people!" or similar greetings. Id. ¶¶ 30, 47. Second, on or about June 15, 2016 at approximately 9:00 a.m., Pritchett, when visiting to conduct a routine inspection, "repeatedly and forcefully banged on Plaintiffs' front door with her fist" instead of using the door knocker, which maintenance staff typically use when seeking entry to an apartment. Id. ¶ 44.

         Beyond these exchanges with property management and staff, Plaintiffs allege that between March 2014 and December 2015 a tenant on their floor "would not keep her dog on a leash in the common areas as is required by the rules, " leading to an incident on or about July 15, 2015 during which the dog bit Morris. Id. ¶¶ 32-34. Although Plaintiffs complained at least 10 times, in writing, to Emlet and the property manager about the tenantss failure to keep her dog on a leash, she was not evicted from her apartment.

         In August 2016, Plaintiffs learned that their own residency at Spellman House Apartments would be terminated. Around August 19, Emlet and Pritchett informed them that based on an incident in which one of them took money out of a wallet left in a common area, their lease was being terminated and that they would be evicted on August 23 if they did not agree before that date to leave voluntarily by August 30. On August 24, 2016, Pritchett sent Plaintiffs a letter stating that their lease would be terminated on September 25, 2066 for the same reasons identified in the meeting. The letter detailed the process by which Plaintiffs could object to the action and stated that if Plaintiffs did not move out by September 25, legal proceedings would be initiated.

         On August 22, 2016, Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit alleging age discriminaiion, housing discriminaiion, violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134 (2012), violations of "Plaintiffs' civil rights, " Compl. ¶ 63, ECF No., , and state common law claims of breach of contract and of the covenant of quiet enjoymen.. After Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint, LNWA filed the pending Motion directed towards the original Complain.. On November 7, 2016, the Court held a Case Management Conference, during which it accepted the Amended Complaint as the operative Complaint and directed LNWA either to supplement its Motion in light of the Amended Complaint or to state that it need not do so. On November 11, 2016, LNWA filed a notice stating that it would not supplement its Motion and asking the Court to consider the Motion as seeking dismissal of the Amended Complaint.


         LNWA is seeking dismissal of the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). LNWA argues that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim for discriminaiion because they do not sufficiently allege that they were treated differently than other tenants. It also contends that the facts asserted do not state a plausible claim for breach of contract or breach of the covenant of ...

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