Case Closed: Equity Residential “Move-in Fee” Class Action Lawsuit in Massachusetts

Updates

September 2, 2015

How to Claim Settlement Funds from the Equity Residential “Move-in Fee” Class Action Lawsuit

August 11, 2015

Order for Preliminary Approval of Class Settlement signed by Judge Zobel.

July 30, 2015

Thousands of tenants in Massachusetts apartments owned by Equity Residential stand to fully recoup illegal pet, move-in and application fees collected by the company — plus 
10 percent interest — under a proposed federal court settlement.” (Boston Herald)

September 10, 2014

Sam Zell‘s company is appealing class certification to the First Circuit.

August 26, 2014

After a two year legal battle with Equity Residential, Massachusetts tenants have achieved a significant legal victory.  Federal Judge Rya Zobel has declared that move-in fees, community fees, application fees, and up-front pet fees violated the Massachusetts Security Deposit Statute.

Boston Herald

Boston Herald, Friday, August 29, 2014

The law firms that filed the original move in fee /amenity fee class actions against Equity Residential are: Pastor Law Office, LLP, Fogelman & Fogelman, LLC, and Leonard Law Office, P.C.  Have you been affected by Equity’s business practices in Massachusetts? If so, you are welcome to contact us.

Boston Herald: Judge Says Equity’s Tenant Fees Illegal (pdf).

See August 26, 2014 – Memorandum and order: pdf

Excerpts:

Application Fee
Two Commonwealth courts have concluded that section 15B(1)(b) does not authorize landlords to charge prospective tenants an application fee…. I agree.

Amenity Fee/Move-in Fee
The amenity fee, at times called a move-in fee, is indistinguishable from the Community Fee. Defendant argues the community fee is lawful because it does not collect the fee until the second month of tenants’ occupancy…But the statute prohibits landlords from “requir[ing] a tenant or prospective tenant to pay” unlisted fees. That is just what defendant does when it charges the fee before a tenant moves in. Deferring collection does not make an unlawful fee lawful. “amenity use fee” Judge Young found unlawful in Hermida. It is not on the list of permissible charges; it is therefore prohibited.

Up-Front Pet Fee
Like the others, the up-front pet fee is not among the permissible charges. It is therefore prohibited.

Monthly Pet Fee
The monthly pet fee is not incurred up front, but rather each month during which the tenant owns a pet. Because plaintiffs became obligated to pay the fee after they were already tenants, they may not turn to section 15B(1)(b) for relief.”

*     *     *     *

Miller v. Equity Residential Management LLC

On May 8, 2012, a class action lawsuit was filed against EQUITY RESIDENTIAL MANAGEMENT LLC, a subsidiary of  Equity Residential (EQR)-NYSE, in the United States District Court, District of Massachusetts.  Equity Residential is the biggest, and perhaps the most infamous landlord in the America.

Boston Business Journal: “The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, seeks refunds for all tenants in Equity Residential properties. The Chicago-based company owns more than 6,000 apartments in the Bay State.” Read the rest of that article here.  Additional media coverage here.

Perry v. Equity Residential Management LLC

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly:  “Residents of Equity Longview Place in Waltham are suing their property management company over similar allegations.  Equity Residential Management LLC, and Illinois company, manages more than two dozen apartment complexes in Massachusetts. ” Read the rest of that article here.

What are the recent Equity Residential class actions about?

Both suits allege that up-front fees Equity Residential has charged tenants (“amenity fees,” “amenity use fees,” “move-in fees”) are in violation of the Massachusetts Security Deposit Law.

Matthew J. Fogelman established a significant legal precedent on which the plaintiffs in Perry and Miller now rely in support of their claims. See Hermida v. Archstone, 826 F. Supp. 2d 380 (D. Mass. 2011).

Who is part of the Class?

The Class is defined as:  all current and former tenants of Equity Residential apartments in Massachusetts who from May 8, 2008 through May 8, 2012  paid an Amenity Fee or a Move In fee.

Case Documents:

May 8, 2012 – CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT

June 1, 2012 – MOTION OF PLAINTIFFS BRIAN PERRY, KIM PERRY AND CHERYL MILLER TO CONSOLIDATE RELATED ACTIONS AND APPOINT INTERIM CLASS COUNSEL AND FOR ENTRY OF PRETRIAL ORDER NO. 1

June 6, 2012 – EQUITY RESIDENTIAL MANAGEMENT, L.L.C.’S MOTION TO DISMISS

June 12, 2012 – EQUITY RESIDENTIAL MANAGEMENT, L.L.C.’S OPPOSITION TO PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION TO CONSOLIDATE RELATED ACTIONS AND APPOINT INTERIM CLASS COUNSEL AND FOR ENTRY OF PRETRIAL ORDER NO. 1

June 19, 2012 – MEMORANDUM IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINTS

June 28, 2012 – REPLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF EQUITY RESIDENTIAL MANAGEMENT, L.L.C.’S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF’S CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT filed by Equity Residential Management LLC. (Wintner, Thomas)

July 2, 2012 – UNOPPOSED MOTION PURSUANT TO LOCAL RULE 7.1(B)(3) FOR LEAVE TO FILE SURREPLY IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS

July 9, 2012 – PLAINTIFF’S SURREPLY IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS

October 25, 2012 – PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE SUPPLEMENTAL AUTHORITY IN SUPPORT OF OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO DISMISS (Supplemental Authority: Pumiglia v. Northland Cliffside).

November 11, 2012 – DEFENDANT’S ANSWER TO COMPLAINT

November 31, 2012 – ORDER ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM: DENIED; The contract names defendant as the lessor. ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION TO CONSOLIDATE CASES: GRANTED.

February 19, 2013 – CONSOLIDATED AND AMENDED CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT

December 12, 2013 – DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

December 12, 2013 – MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

February 10, 2014 – PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

February 10, 2014 – MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

August 6, 2014 – MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

Related Post: Consumer Complaints About Equity Residential

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22 Comments

Filed under Boston News, Class Action Lawsuits, Landlord - Tenant Law

22 responses to “Case Closed: Equity Residential “Move-in Fee” Class Action Lawsuit in Massachusetts

  1. Since the filing of Miller v. Equity Residential Management LLC, I have been receiving phone calls from unhappy Equity Residential tenants. The most common complaints so far:
    (1) large rent increases
    (2) water damage from burst pipes
    (3) not receiving enough money back from security deposit

    Every person who has called me so far has expressed reluctance to complain about their experiences by commenting on this blog, or to confront Equity head-on, out of fear of retaliation.

    It is my opinion that Equity Residential is a corporate bully, more concerned with profits than with treating people well.

  2. [redacted]

    I would very much appreciate if you could contact me. My husband and i have been residents at the Longwood location for nearly a year. We have had numerous problems which have been directed at the property manager who chose to IGNORE all except one of them. We are leaving because of the increase in rent for the privilege of living in a complete student infested DUMP!!!

  3. Pingback: Broad Street Associates v. Stephen Levine « Massachusetts Consumer Law Blog

  4. anon anon

    Don’t rent from Equity they are the nastiest landlords int the lands

  5. anon anon

    These guys break the laws and they don’t give a damn

  6. Ashlan Grant

    Equity residential are a bunch of jerks.

  7. Pingback: Consumer Complaints About Equity Residential « Massachusetts Consumer Law Blog

  8. J.

    I have been living an Equity nightmare for years. I moved into a lovely Boston apartment 30 years ago. Unfortunately, Equity bought the bldg about 10 years ago.

    I would have moved, but medical problems prevented it. Equity realized that I couldn’t move out, and thus took the opportunity to raise my rent from 18% – 30%. They outrightly lied to me about the possibility of moving to an “affordable unit” in the complex, forcing me to accept their usurious increases.

    Then, in 2009, before the end of my lease term, they unilaterally increased my rent 24% (effective while my lease was still extant). I paid my “real” rent; they served me with a notice to quit for failure to pay the illegal increase.

    I sent Equity a 93A Demand letter detailing that, as well as a plethora of other unfair and deceptive acts and practices. They did not reply for over a year, during which time I continued to faithfully pay my rent based upon my last lease. In January of this year, mgmt asked for a meeting to resolve the situation. Much to my shock, the Regional Manager made me a verbal settlement offer. However, their lawyer followed up with a formal written reply to my 93A Demand that contained the most vitriolic, vituperative verbiage I have ever had the displeasure of reading. In the end, tho, it did propose an offer of settlement. I submitted a written counter-offer, which resulted in a written “additional offer” from the attorney. I reluctantly accepted the offer, in writing.

    Shortly thereafter, I went to sign the new lease, as per our agreement, but was instead met with a 7 page “Settlement Agreement”. The lawyer did not want me to read it — demanding that I sign it before executing the new lease. I refused. Upon review, I found that the so-called Settlement Agreement did not memorialize our actual agreement, but rather re-wrote substantive terms contrary to those negotiated. I refused to sign; and demanded that they honor the terms of the contract evidenced by their written offer and my written acceptance.

    One of the issues in dispute was my last mo rent and security deposit. In my 93A Demand, I mentioned that I had not received the annual notices of interest, nor did I recall receiving a check or credit for that interest for several years. The reply accused me of lying … stating that Equity was not holding a LMR deposit from me. I produced the original receipt for my LMR deposit and security deposit, and increases I had made to those deposits for more than 10 yrs. Then, they came up with this story, that in 2003 Equity decided to no longer hold LMR deposits, so they co-mingled the LMR deposits with the security deposit monies. Further, they said, that in 2005, Equity decided to no longer hold a full month’s security deposit — to only hold $750 per apartment. They claimed that they credited me with the difference between the $2,273.00 they acknowledged holding as of 2004, and the $750 they now claim to be holding. I asked for proof that my account was credited, but they have failed and refused to do so … the attorney was incredulous that I would expect Equity to have records of that sort! (I have asked a number of other long term tenants about this and none of them had noticed that their security deposits had been reduced, nor did any of them have a recollection of receiving a credit.)

    Following my refusal to sign the non-conforming “Settlement Agreement”, Equity’s attorney engaged in a course of conduct that included written emails threatening me and attempting to intimidate me. He admitted in one such email that Equity never intended to honor the negotiated terms of our agreement (ie. that they negotiated in bad faith). I was just served with a SP (Eviction) Complaint this afternoon.

    Equity must be called to account for their unethical, illegal and unscrupulous activities.

    There are several long term tenants in my complex who are willing to take action together … several are already acting alone. Since I cannot afford to pay an attorney, I will be do my best to slay the dragon with the hope that others will have the courage to follow.

  9. chris

    Equity sucks @ being landlords. Make em pay!

  10. Kathy

    I am another victim of Equity in Maryland. I really need help. Anyone can help me find an attorney, or if you also live in hell everyday because they can push you under their thump with all the power, please let me know maybe together we can get more attention. Thanks

  11. Pingback: Equity Residential Class Action Investigation « Massachusetts Consumer Law Blog

  12. Pingback: Tenant Alert: Some Massachusetts Residential Landlords Routinely Violate the Law by Collecting “Amenity Fees” & Other Illegal Up-Front Fees! « Massachusetts Consumer Law Blog

  13. [Name Redacted]

    I wrote to the Mngmnt. Co. when it appeared on Channel 5 (2/14/2012) and was told that Archstone was appealing this decision. I contacted them again in the summer and was told that they were returning these fees to current residents. I moved next door to another property and asked that these fees be returned to me. I have called at least 3 times and was told that the “home office” is deciding how to handle move outs. I also sent a letter to the home office and followed it up with 2 phone calls and was told that the Regional Manager, a woman by the name of Kathleen was handling this. To date, I have not received a phone call, letter, etc. from this company. What are my next steps? Should I file with the AG’s office?

  14. Emm and Bee

    This is fascinating, because my wife and I are tenants at EQR’s Uptown Square property in Denver. After moving in during the latter part of 2012, we experienced ongoing problems with the property and its management which led us to look online to see if our experience was a common one at the property. Given what we’ve read and experienced, we believe that litigation is the only route to a remedy. We’re not unaware of the risks posed by standing up for ourselves, but we won’t be cowed by bullies. It’s good to know that others are fighting the good fight too.

  15. Pingback: Current Cases: Equity Residential Class Action & Ongoing Investigation into Equity’s Business Practices | Leonard Law Office, LLP

  16. Pingback: How to Claim Settlement Funds from the Equity Residential “Move-in Fee” Class Action Lawsuit | L E O N A R D * L A W * O F F I C E

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