If you live in an apartment..you're used to giving money to the landlord. But some amazing news for thousands of tenants–your landlord may have to give some of it back! Are you in for a big refund? Hank investigates.
Using the swimming pool. Partying in the clubhouse. Working out in the gym. Access to a business center–those special amenities are what attract people to apartment complexes. Renters Ben and Anna loved this place in Quincy–even though they say the property management company told them if they wanted to move in– they had to pay an up-front amenities *fee* of 525 dollars.
"From the get-go, I didn't think anything was fishy," said Anna Miniutti, a tenant.
But now Ben and Anna are demanding that money back. Why? Behind closed doors in Boston's federal court–a judge just decided–you can't require tenants to pay an upfront amenities fee. Lawyers who worked on the case say–this is a huge potential windfall for renters.
"Anyone who has paid this fee in the last four years has a claim to get that money back," said Attorney Matt Fogelman, the lawyer for the tenants.
It all started with a lawsuit involving the Archstone apartments in Reading ..According to the lawsuit, the management was charging renters an upfront 475 dollar fee to use the pool, the gym and the outdoor grill.
"The average tenant has no idea what fees are permissible, and what fees are not permissible.. all they want to do is live somewhere," said Attorney Matt Fogelman.
But two tenants who lived here at the Reading complex sued–saying Mass law only allows landlords to charge first and last month's rent, a security deposit, and the cost of a new lock and key. They took their case to court–and won–on behalf of their neighbors, too!
For renters–that's a big deal! The lawyers for the tenants say the judge's decision means everyone who lived at the complex and paid that fee over the past four years will get some money back.
Archstone-which no longer owns the that complex–told us "We don't comment on matters regarding litigation." Real estate experts say many apartments charged those fees–til now, the law wasn't exactly clear on what was allowed.
But now, tenants who paid amenities fees in other places–like Anna and Ben–are asking for their money back, too.
"I hope that would be the end result and the management company would understand this is wrong, apologize, and return the money back to everyone that's paid it," said Anna Miniutti.
Problem is–our online spotcheck of apartment complexes reveals–some places are still charging the fee! So if you're told–you've gotta pay or you can't move in–Experts advise: Just say no.
"Push back and say to the landlord, I don't want to pay that fee, or I shouldn't have to pay that fee, or you're not allowed to charge that fee," said Attorney Matt Fogelman.
If you've already paid an amenities fee–and you were given no choice about it…Experts say call your management company and ask about a refund.
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