Tag Archives: Equity Residential

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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Equity Residential Faces Class Action Lawsuit About Heat and Water (Habitability) Issues at the Walden Park Apartments

Update (1/10/15)

The past few weeks have been cold.  According to the Boston Globe, “Yesterday’s high was a bitter 18 degrees, and if the forecast holds, temperatures in Boston may not break freezing for several days.” In the face of this cold weather, and despite conversion from oil to natural gas at Equity Residential’s Walden Park apartments in Cambridge, complaints continue to come in to this office regarding insufficient heat at the apartment complex.

Update (2/15/14)

On February 12, 2014, a Massachusetts Federal Judge issued an eighteen page opinion (PDF) remanding (sending back) this case to state court, summarizing: “[b]ecause Equity ‘has not demonstrated a reasonable probability that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million,’ the case must be remanded. ” We continue to receive complaints from tenants about heat and hot water problems at this apartment complex.

*     *     *     *

Original Post (4/15/13)

Equity Residential now faces its sixth class action lawsuit in Massachusetts since 2012. This is believed to set the record for the most class action lawsuits against one company in any one year period in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Leonard Law Office PC, and the Law Offices of Joshua N. Garick PC together filed suit against Equity Residential on behalf of tenants of the Walden Park Apartments in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Leonard Law Office PC is representing Massachusetts consumers in two other class actions against Equity Residential.

If you reside at the Walden Park Apartments, you are welcome to contact us about heating issues such as lack of hot water or inadequate heat in your apartment.  

THE SUIT SEEKS $3M IN DAMAGES FOR TENANTS

Case Documents:

1. Class Action Complaint (PDF).

220-225 Walden St. (Walden Park Apartments)

220-225 Walden St. (Walden Park Apartments)

The complaint alleges: “On November 4, 2011, Equity acquired Walden Park, which includes two large apartment buildings located at 205 and 225 Walden Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Walden Park has approximately 250 apartment units. When Equity acquired Walden Park, the heating and hot water systems were fully operable and in good working order. The plaintiffs entered into a written lease agreement with Walden Park’s previous owner, the Dolben Company, to rent the apartment located at 225 Walden Park, Cambridge, MA. When the Dolben Company owned Walden Park, the plaintiffs had no issues with the heat or hot water system. After Equity acquired Walden Park, issues with Equity-provided utilities, including heat and hot water, began. Starting in April of 2012, and continuing for well over a year thereafter until the present date, the plaintiffs and the Class experienced significant deficiencies and outages with the heat and hot water, including, without limitation, issues on the following dates:

May 8, 2012
May 12,2012
May 16,2012
June 27, 2012
August 23, 2012
October 20, 2012
October 21,2012
October 23, 2012
November 1, 2012
November 3, 2012
November 6, 2012
November 7, 2012
November 16, 2012
November 17, 2012
November 19,2012
March 28, 2013
April 3,2013
April 10, 2013
April 17, 2013
April 18, 2013
April23, 2013
June 6, 2013
June 25, 2013
August 15, 2013

These outages were systemic, and affected all Walden Park units. Over the course of this year, Equity exhibited no urgency in resolving these issues and provided misleading and contradictory reasons for shutting off the utilities. These reasons included, among other stated reasons, conversion from oil to natural gas, a water conservation project, a heating and cooling project, fuel supply/consumption issues, operator error, and automatic shutdowns. The problem was so egregious that the Cambridge Board of Health, which received numerous reports from Walden Park residents, cited Equity for violations of the State Sanitary Code, and deemed the violations to materially impair the health, safety or well-being of the Walden Park’s residents. On numerous occasions, the plaintiffs, (as well as other Walden Park residents) complained to Equity’s staff including complaints by telephone, e-mail and in person. These complaints were not resolved, forcing the plaintiffs to pursue formal litigation against Equity.” The Complaint further alleges that Equity Residential Equity backed out of a settlement deal reached earlier this month between Equity’s lawyers, and attorneys representing tenants.

Equity Residential & Cambridge Inspectional Services Division (ISD) Violations

Violation

Violation – “Deemed to Endgr. or Impair Health of Safety”

Equity Residential Walden St. Apartments, Cambridge, MA

Equity Residential Walden St. Apartments, Cambridge, MA

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Equity Residential Class Action & Ongoing Investigation into Equity’s Business Practices

UNDER INVESTIGATION: Equity Residential

The Leonard Law Office, P.C. is currently investigating Equity Residential’s business practices.  Former or current residents and employees are welcome to contact us with information. We have filed three class action lawsuits against Equity Residential for allegedly violating the Massachusetts security deposit statute and other laws. 

Tenant Complaints

Equity Residential Watch has alleged that Equity Residential is guilty of “tenant abuse,” and “has a troubling history of flouting the law and violating tenants rights nationwide.”  Read that discussion here.

Greed

Sam Zell – Billionaire investor, Equity Residential Chairman Sam Zell clearly believes home ownership is not for everyone. He famously remarked during the subprime mortgage crisis, “We need to clean out all those people who never should have bought in the first place and not give them sympathy.”

Billionaire Sam Zell, photo by Bloomberg

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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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Class Action Investigation: Massachusetts Residential Landlords Collecting “Amenity Fees” & Other Illegal Up-Front Fees

Have you been charged any of the following fees before moving into a building?
 
  • “Amenity fee”
  • “Move in fee”
  • “Pet fee”
  • “Application fee”
  • “Maintenance fee”
  • “Credit/screening fee”
  • “Holding fee”
  • New “Community fee” (As of November 2012, Equity Residential is allegedly charging a “community fee,” due some point after the first month)
 
If so, your rights may have been violated, and you may be owed financial compensation.  If you want to talk to an attorney about your legal rights, please call me, Attorney Preston W. Leonard at (617)329-1295, or see this post to learn more about a recent class action lawsuit concerning amenity fees in Massachusetts.
 
Note: If you have paid any of the up-front fees described above in the past 4 years, even if it was not to an Equity Residential or Archstone building, you may be entitled to financial compensation. 
 
Examples of Unlawful Fees in a Massachusetts Residential Lease Agreement:
 
 
 

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