Maryland tenants file class action against Westminster Management to stop illegal fee collection practices

Two Maryland residents filed a class action lawsuit today, challenging Westminster Management, LLC’s alleged practice of charging its tenants excessive, illegal fees. The lawsuit contends that Westminster Management, LLC, JK2 Westminster, LLC, Dutch Village, LLC, and Carroll Park Holdings, LLC (collectively “Westminster”) charge tenants excessive, illegal fees, regularly misapply tenants’ subsequent payments in part to the illegal fees, and then deem the next rent
payments “late” to justify additional excessive fees. Westminster demands payment of these improper fees under threat of eviction.

“The routine practice of charging tenants illegal fees combined with filing eviction proceedings against tenants who have paid their rent on time is predatory and destructive to hard-working Marylanders and their families. This is yet another example of corporations profiting from deceptive policies,” said Chelsea Ortega of Santoni, Vocci & Ortega, LLC. “Santoni, Vocci & Ortega is proud to partner with the Public Justice Center and Brown, Goldstein & Levy to represent tenants harmed by Westminster’s practices.”

A copy of the Complaint is available here.

The press release is available here.

Class Action Certified Against Blue Ocean Realty, LLC

The attorneys of Santoni, Vocci & Ortega, LLC ("SVO") filed a proposed class action suit in Circuit Court for Baltimore City on December 1, 2016 alleging that Blue Ocean Realty, LLC, the property management company for numerous residential properties, violated Maryland law and breached contracts by charging and/or collecting illegal fees, designated as late fees, court costs and/or agent fees. The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages, a declaration that Blue Ocean Realty, LLC’s conduct is illegal, an injunction preventing the continuing conduct, an order that Blue Ocean Realty, LLC be required to pay back all illegal fees collected by Blue Ocean Realty, LLC, and attorneys’ fees.

Recently, the Circuit Court determined that class certification is appropriate and that the class representative and SVO could represent the following class of people:

All persons who are or were tenants in a residential rental property managed by Defendant Blue Ocean Realty, LLC in Maryland who were charged or paid fees in excess of the permissible 5% late fee allowed by Maryland law.

We want to hear from those affected by business practices of landlords/property managers.  Please contact us, if you believe you have been charged by or paid excessive fees to your landlord or property management company.  

Tenant files suit against Housing Authority of Baltimore for wrongful eviction and debt collection violations

Shermika Pittman, a Baltimore City resident, filed suit yesterday against the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) and two of its employees for debt collection violations and wrongful eviction alleging that the Housing Authority, as her landlord, filed a number of Failure to Pay Rent actions (FTPR) when rent had been paid -- relying on false statements; and demanded court costs for the wrongfully filed rent court actions.

In one of the alleged instances, Ms. Pittman was evicted from her home on the basis of a FTPR filed despite her payment of rent and despite her offer to pay the "redemption" amount to remain in her apartment. She was out of her home for nearly three weeks until the District Court ordered that possession be returned to her.  HABC then filed a FTPR against Ms. Pittman averring that the rent was not paid timely despite Ms. Pittman having been wrongfully evicted and out of the apartment when the rent was due.

Ms. Pittman suffered economic and emotional distress for which she is seeking to hold HABC accountable.

She is represented by Matthew Thomas Vocci of Santoni, Vocci & Ortega, LLC. 

Download Complaint.

Download Press Release.

Maryland Court of Appeals’ Decision is a Victory for Consumers

Maryland Court of Appeals’ Decision is a Victory for Consumers

We often see people who are being sued in district court for debts by creditors or debt buyers. Many times, these people not only have defenses, but they have affirmative claims – meaning that the creditor or debt buyer has done something illegal or unfair and deceptive, and they have a claim against the creditor. Before the Cain decision, these companies got away with suing consumers in court, and keeping its wrongdoing hidden from the legal system by seeking arbitration when the consumer sued the company.  We are hopeful that this decision will prevent companies from using arbitration, the corporate get-out-of-jail-free card, in the future when a consumer is sued first.

CFPB's Report on Debt Collection

CFPB's Report on Debt Collection

A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report found that more than half of consumers who reported being contacted about a debt also reported that the debt was not theirs, was owed by a family member, or was for the wrong amount. Unfortunately, the survey also found that debt collectors continue to use threatening tactics and most people who are sued for a debt do not show up in court.