• Annapolis couple Jeffery and Jody Brooks reached an undisclosed settlement in a lawsuit against real estate agent Barbara Van Horn.
  • The Brooks claimed Van Horn purposefully failed to disclose a recurring snake infestation that had plagued the house for at least eight years.
  • Maryland law requires sellers and their agents to disclose latent defects and material facts to buyers and buyers' agents.

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by CareyBot

Where’s Samuel L. Jackson when you need him?

In April 2015, Jeffery and Jody Brooks discovered a den of black rat snakes between the walls of their newly bought Annapolis home.

The eight snakes that the couple discovered were seven feet long and have life spans of up to 25 years, according to a report by the Capital Gazette.

The "snake house." (Photo credit: Paul W. Gillespie / Capital Gazette)

The “snake house.” (Photo credit: Paul W. Gillespie / Capital Gazette)

From fall to spring in ‘the snake house’

The couple said the final home inspection that took place in November before closing revealed no evidence of snakes.

But once spring came, the couple began hearing a sound coming from the walls where the snakes nested to escape the winter’s cold.

The Brooks moved out of the home and filed a $2 million lawsuit against listing agent Barbara Van Horn for failing to disclose a recurring issue with snake infestations.

Van Horn says she had no knowledge of the snakes, but the Brooks contested her claims with statements from multiple previous renters who complained about finding snakes, snake skins and feces. One renter, Rich Booker, even dubbed the home “the snake house.”

Settling the case

The case was set to go to trial on Nov. 14, but on Nov. 9, the Brooks’ lawyer, Genevieve H.R. Lindner, filed to voluntarily dismiss the suit and settle for an undisclosed amount.

“We’re all pleased that it’s been resolved,” said Van Horn’s attorney, Barbara Johnson Palmer.

If both parties had decided to take the case to trial, it seems that the Brooks had a good chance of coming out on the winning side.

According to Maryland law, sellers and their agents must disclose latent defects and material facts to buyers and their agents, and it seems the Brooks’ snake infestation would be covered under each provision.

The Maryland Association of Realtors says: “A latent defect is a condition that, one is not reasonably discoverable on careful visual inspection and two would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of the purchaser or occupant.”

Additionally, material facts are defined as a fact “that would affect the buyer’s decision to buy, the price the buyer would be willing to pay, or other terms to which a buyer would agree.”

Lastly, Maryland law states a real estate licensee must disclose to all parties material facts the licensee knows or should have known.

Another case in California

This isn’t the only seller disclosure lawsuit that has taken over the internet this year.

In June, Laura and Richard Coté of Monterey, California, filed a civil complaint against the seller, Sean Ford, and their buyer’s agent, Herbert Aronson, for failing to disclose that a murder took place at their home more than 16 years ago, and that the murderer had buried the body in the backyard.

The Cotés initially rented the home in 1998, and after 18 months, the couple decided to purchase the home for $339,000.

In court documents, the couple said their landlord pressured them to “close on the sale quickly,” and that Aronson had to have known about the highly publicized murders since he’s been a Realtor in Monterey for over 30 years.

The case is ongoing, but like Maryland, California requires disclosure of material facts — although Maryland does not require disclosure surrounding murders, and California does if the murder occurred in the past three years.

Email Marian McPherson