Category Archives: Landlord – Tenant Law

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.”

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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

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Massachusetts Statue of Frauds

Massachusetts Statue of Frauds

M.G.L. Ch 259, S.1

No action shall be brought:

First, To charge an executor or administrator, or an assignee under an insolvent law of the commonwealth, upon a special promise to answer damages out of his own estate;

Second, To charge a person upon a special promise to answer for the debt, default or misdoings of another;

Third, Upon an agreement made upon consideration of marriage;

Fourth, Upon a contract for the sale of lands, tenements or hereditaments or of any interest in or concerning them; or,

Fifth, Upon an agreement that is not to be performed within one year from the making thereof;

Unless the promise, contract or agreement upon which such action is brought, or some memorandum or note thereof, is in writing and signed by the party to be charged therewith or by some person thereunto by him lawfully authorized.

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Broad Street Associates v. Stephen Levine

Related posts: Apartment Amenity and Move In Fee Class Action Investigation, Equity Residential Hit With Class Action Lawsuit 

According to this decision, it is unlawful for residential landlords to charge application fees in Massachusetts.  Application fees are just one of the illegal fees that are often imposed on tenants such as up front  “move in fees,” “amenity fees,” or “pet fees.” 

Legal Issues:

1. Is charging pet rent legal in Massachusetts?

2. Is charging an up-front pet deposit or pet fee at the beginning of the tenancy legal in Massachusetts?

3. Can a Massachusetts landlord legally charge an application fee?

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS NORTHEAST HOUSING COURT

BROAD STREET ASSOCIATES v. STEPHEN LEVINE

No. 12-SP-2041

DECISION AND ORDER

On July 1, 2010, the tenant paid the landlord a $45 application fee, and on July 7, 2010, paid a $1,000 security deposit and $1,000 first month’s rent. Thereafter, the tenant paid $1,000 monthly rents and $50 per month “pet fees under three successive Leases and two successive Pet Agreements. Disputes arose between the parties, chiefly about roof leaks and related housing defects and conditions of disrepair.  The tenant withheld his rent and stopped paying the pet fees. The landlord responded by bringing this summary process case for nonpayment of rent.

1. The landlord complied with the. bank deposit and receipt requirements of the Security Deposit Law, Gen.L. c.186 §15B(2) (b) , (c) , and (3) (a), with respect to the $1,000 security deposit.

2. The landlord did not comply with the five-percent interest requirement of the Security Deposit Law, Gen.L. c.186 §15B(3){b). The tenant is entitled to payment of or credit for the $103.21 interest accrued on the security deposit.

3.  The landlord violated the excess payments requirement of the Security Deposit Law, Gen.L. c.186 §15B(1) (b) , by requiring the tenant (then a prospective tenant) to pay the $45 application fee. The tenant is entitled to return of or credit for the $45 application fee. Continue reading

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Amenity & Move In Fee Class Action Investigation

Consumer Alert: Some Massachusetts Residential Landlords Routinely Violate the Law by Collecting Unlawful Move In or Amenity Fees!

  • Have you been charged an “Amenity Fee”?
  • Have you been been charged a “Move in Fee”?

If so, those fees may have been collected illegally from you! Numerous large apartment buildings in Massachusetts require tenants to pay illegal fees to move in.  If you want to talk to an attorney about your rights in regards to security deposit violations, or unlawful move in /amenity fees, please call me at (617)329-1295.

Boston Skyline - Charles River from Mass Ave. Bridge - Smoot 100

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Massachusetts Residential Lease Security Deposit Damages in a Nutshell

The Leonard Law Office, LLP accepts Massachusetts security deposit cases.  If you have a question about a security deposit issue, you are welcome to contact us.

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If the Landlord Fails:

  • to deposit the security deposit in an escrow account; or
  • to return the security deposit (or balance after lawful deductions) with accrued interest within 30 days after termination of tenancy; or
  • to pay interest on last month’s rent within 30 days termination of tenancy; or
  • to transfer the security deposit or last month’s rent to the new landlord if the building is sold,

Then you are entitled to TRIPLE damages, plus court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

If the Landlord:

  • uses a lease containing provisions that conflict with the security deposit law and attempts to enforce these provisions or attempts to get you to sign a waiver of rights; or
  • fails to provide you with an itemized list of damages within 30 days after termination of tenancy if deductions are made for damages; or
  • fails to make the security deposit records available for inspection during office hours; or
  • fails to provide, within 30 days of receipt of the deposit, another receipt with name and location of bank and amount and account # of deposit,

Then you are entitled to the IMMEDIATE RETURN of your security deposit. The landlord cannot keep your security deposit for any reason, including making deductions for damage.

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Denava v. Reilly

DENAVA vs. REILLY, 2011 Mass. App. Div. 127, June 13, 2011.

Residential landlord’s failure to provide tenant with statement of condition of leased premises at commencement of lease, to place $500 security deposit in escrow in interest-bearing account and inform tenant of bank holding money, and failure to return deposit within 30 days after end of tenancy, violated security deposit law, and thus tenant was entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees, triple damages, plus interest under M.G.L. c. 186, § 15B.

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Masschusetts Law on Landlords Taking Last Month’s Rent in Advance:

Summary of the law on last month’s rent In Massachusetts:

  • The amount of the last month’s rent must be the same as the first month’s rent.
  • Landlords have to give a proper receipt if they take last month’s rent in advance.
  • Landlords are required to pay interest on last month’s rent collected in advace, and if they don’t they can be forced to pay triple the amount of interest due, plus reasonable attorney’s fees.

M.G.L. ch. 186 s. 15(B)(2)(a)

“Any lessor or his agent who receives, at or prior to the commencement of a tenancy, rent in advance for the last month of the tenancy from a tenant or prospective tenant shall give to such tenant or prospective tenant at the time of such advance payment a receipt indicating the amount of such rent, the date on which it was received, its intended application as rent for the last month of the tenancy, the name of the person receiving it and, in the case of an agent, the name of the lessor for whom the rent is received, and a description of the rented or leased premises, and a statement indicating that the tenant is entitled to interest on said rent payment Continue reading

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If a landlord violates the Massachusetts security deposit law, (M.G.L. ch. 186 s. 15b) can there also be a 93A claim?

Yes, landlords who violate ch. 186 s. 15b may also be held to violate ch. 93A.  In McGrath v. Mishara, 386 Mass. 74, 434 N.E.2d 1215 (1982) the court reasoned, “[o]ur review of the statutory provisions discloses no error in the judge’s conclusion that the tenants had causes of actions in based on General Laws Chapter 186 Section 15B … and M.G.L.A. Chapter 93A. The mere fact that these statutes contains some overlapping prohibitions and remedies does not establish a legislative intent to preclude their concurrent application.”

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Does a landlord have to give a receipt for a security deposit?

Yes.  First, a landlord must provide a receipt for a security deposit at the time they take it.   That receipt must identify the amount, the date, the premises, and the landlord’s name.   M.G.L. c. 186, § 15B(2)(b).

Then, within thirty days, the landlord must give a receipt identifying the name, location, and account number of the bank holding the security deposit.  The bank account the landlord sets up to hold the tenant’s security deposit must be a  “separate, interest-bearing account in a bank, located within the Commonwealth.” M.G.L. c. 186, § 15B(3)(a).  The remedy for a landlord’s failure to establish an appropriate account and/or failing to give the tenant a receipt indicating the banking information,  is that the tenant is immediately entitled to the return of their security deposit.

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