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‘Dream home’ snakebitten by infestation, suit says

🕐 3 min read

In early April, a 4-year-old boy spotted a three-foot black rat snake emerging from the facade of his family’s new Annapolis, Maryland, home.

Jody and Jeffrey Brooks initially were excited about their son’s discovery. They had encountered a snake’s shedded skin in the house months earlier and thought they were now able to dispose of their serpent problem.

But a week or so later, Jeffrey Brooks found a thick, seven-foot black rat snake. Then the family found another. And another. And, yes, another.

They called in a contractor and snake inspector, who gutted the basement and deemed the house snake-infested and unsuitable for children. They moved into Jody Brooks’ parents’ house — leaving their new home after four months.

Now the couple are suing the previous owner of the house and the real estate agent who sold it to them last year for $410,000, claiming they knew of the snake infestation and concealed it from them so they’d buy the house.

The couple filed suit on May 19 and are asking for a combined $2 million in damages. The snake infestation was so severe, the suit alleges, that an inspector observed “highways in the basement walls that the snakes use to traverse the home.”

“It was a house we could make into our dream home,” Jody Brooks said. But she added, “We had a fear that [a snake] would go into our daughter’s crib and, like the movies, wrap itself around our baby girl.”

The Brookses purchased the house, which had previously been used as a rental, from the Joan A. Broseker Revocable Trust in December. Joan Broseker had transferred the house to her namesake trust in 2010. Her daughter, Barbara Van Horn, is the real estate agent with Champion Realty who sold the house. She lives a few doors down from the allegedly snake-infested house.

According to the suit, before they officially bought the house, the Brookses had heard rumors from neighbors that there was a problem with snakes, but when they approached Van Horn about it, she “assured the Brooks’ that the prior tenants were ‘gypsies’ who did not want to pay rent and had Photoshopped a picture of a snake at the Property to get out of the lease.”

The suit alleges that Van Horn said she had a pest-control company perform a “snake away” treatment of the house. During all inspections of the house, no one, including the Brookses, observed snake activity.

But, the suit alleges, that was all part of the ruse.

“Van Horn refused to keep a lock box on the premises while acting as the listing agent and would personally unlock the home and turn on the lights and, upon information and belief, check for snake activity before anyone entered the premises,” the lawsuit states.

Barbara Palmer, an attorney for Champion Realty, declined to comment on the allegations, saying it’s a policy not to speak about ongoing litigation.

Black rat snakes are nonvenomous and are not typically interested in humans. The family says, however, they’ve suffered from severe respiratory problems after living with an “excessive amount of snake feces.”

Black rat snakes leave behind a distinct smell and because of this, Jody Brooks said, the family could never move back to the property. The smell can attract more snakes and there would be a risk of them returning, she said.

“Unfortunately, that’s us, we’re the snake family. . . . We’ve learned more about snakes than we’ve ever wanted to know,” she said. “We just want them to let us start over and take the house back.”

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