MVLS Attorney Provides Valuable Legal Help to a Nonprofit in a Tough Spot

MVLS’s Managing Attorney for Housing and Consumer Law Amy Hennen represented Project PLASE, a nonprofit that administers subsidized rent for people transitioning from shelters. A landlord took PLASE to court over two water bill disputes involving subsidized tenants. He initially filed the cases in rent court, but because of a recent Maryland ruling that addressed which court tenant water bills issues are heard in, they were moved to civil court for contract disputes.

PLASE was initially unaware that they needed an attorney for civil court. At rent court, they were able to go to court without a lawyer, but now they needed to have one. Without the room in their budget to pay for a private attorney, PLASE contacted MVLS’s Community Development Project, which connects non-profits with pro bono attorneys. With just a few days’ notice before the hearing, Ms Hennen successfully advocated on behalf of PLASE.

Ultimately, the case was dismissed because of a technicality – the landlord had formed an LLC for his rental business, but had taken the clients to court under his own name. But while she was representing Project PLASE, Ms. Hennen threw in some helpful legal advice. The landlord had been under the impression that PLASE was entirely responsible for unpaid water bills, even if they were due to a leak. Ms. Hennen advised PLASE to clarify their lease language regarding water bills and leaks so landlords would not look to courts to explain it.

Mary Slicher, Project PLASE’s Executive Director, appreciated the last-minute help. She wrote the following note to Ms. Hennen:

“You are a gem! Thank you so very, very much for your excellent help on these two cases! We could not have done it without you… [we] are impressed and grateful. So glad you were on our side.”

To volunteer with the Community Development Project to provide legal help to nonprofits that serve low-income Marylanders, please contact Michelle Swift, Pro Bono Program Manager, at mswift@mvlslaw.org or (443) 451-4068.