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Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs (COLTA)

Decisions and Orders

The Montgomery County Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs (“Commission”), often referred to as COLTA, is a quasi-judicial body crated to render decision regarding Landlord-Tenant complaints that the Investigators were unable to resolve.  The Commission has the power to hold hearing and issue Decisions and Orders that have the force of law.  If you disagree with a Commission decision, you would have to appeal it to the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Maryland.  Having your case heard before the Commission is generally quicker than going through the District Court and it is free.

If a complaint is not resolved, the Investigator refers the complaint to the Commission.  Commission members act as Administrative Judges. The Commission is comprised of 15 members:  4 tenant representatives, 4 landlord representatives, 4 members of the public who are neither tenants nor landlords, and 3 alternates, one in each category.  Commissioners who have a potential conflict with either a landlord or tenant are required to recuse themselves from any decisions regarding that complaint.

After receiving a complaint, the Commission has three options: (1) decide there is no violation of law, in which case the Commission dismisses a complaint without conducting a hearing; (2) decide there is sufficient evidence of a violation, and schedule a hearing to allow both sides to present their testimony and evidence under oath; or (3) refer the case back to Landlord-Tenant staff for further investigation.  Hearings are usually conducted by a panel of three Commissioners, one representative from each category.   These hearings are informal, and parties can represent themselves or be represented by an attorney.  Landlords cannot be represented by their management companies, and parties cannot be represented by someone who is not a lawyer.  If English is not the primary language of the landlord or tenant, an interpreter will be provided, at no expense, on request.

After hearing the case, the Commission issues a written Decision and Order.   The Commission can order any or all of the following if they find the landlord has created a defective tenancy:

  1. Immediate termination of the lease;
  2. Return of all or part of a tenant’s security deposit along with, if warranted, a penalty up to three times the amount of the deposit;
  3. Return of all or part of any rent already paid to the landlord;
  4. An award of up to $2,500.00 for damage or loss incurred by a tenant;
  5. A reasonable expenditure for temporary or substitute housing; and
  6. Attorney’s fees  up to $1,000.00, when appropriate.

The Commission can order any or all of the following if they find the tenant has created a defective tenancy:

  1. Immediate termination of the lease and possession of the rental property under State law; and,
  2. An award of  up to $2,500.00 for damage or loss incurred by a landlord.

The Decision and Order is legally binding.  If any party fails to adhere to the provisions of the Decision and Order, the County will take enforcement action.  If either party disagrees with a Decision and Order, the Decision and Order may be appealed to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County.  If the Decision and Order contains a monetary award, and the appellant wants to stop enforcement, he/she must post a bond with the Circuit Court in the amount of the award.

The Commission has issued numerous Decisions and Orders that have addressed a variety of landlord-tenant issues, including security deposits, utility conversion, breach of lease, license revocation and habitability.  Please review the Commission’s Decisions and Orders to get an idea of how they interpret the law given certain fact patterns.  These Decisions and Orders are available by clicking the Decision and Orders link at the top of this page.

Created Montgomery County Code Section 29-9.
Purpose The Commission hears apartment license revocation appeals and landlord-tenant disputes.
Membership Fifteen members. Four permanent members from nominations made by organizations representing landlords; four permanent members from nominations made by organizations representing tenants; four permanent public-at-large members who are neither tenants nor landlords; and three alternates, one from each category.
Terms Three-year terms
Meetings First Tuesday evening of each month
Staff Rosie McCray-Moody, (240) 777-3612
Public-At-Large Representatives Lawrence Culleen, Aluanda Drain, Robyn Jones and Charles Marschke 
Landlord Representatives Galia Steinbach (Chair), Dave Goldberg (Vice Chair), Laura Murray and Jeffrey Slavin
Tenant Representatives Beverly A. Flanagan,  Kenneth Lemberg, William Roberts, Mora Rogers and Terri Torain