Landlord-Tenant Issues: Wait . . . What Fees Are You Charging Me?

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Landlord-Tenant Issues: Wait . . . What Fees Are You Charging Me?

Kelly Guzzo, PLC recently filed a class action under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act against a debt collector that was collecting unlawful fees on behalf of a large, multistate rental company. The unlawful fees included so-called “payment convenience fees” and “early termination fees.”

The payment convenience fees were assessed simply because renters had paid their rent online using their debit or credit cards. The rental company, in other words, charged renters for the purported “convenience” of paying their rent online. But the renters’ leases included nothing about such fees, and the fees were seemingly charged just so the rental company could nickel and dime its renters some more. It’s our position that—in the absence of a lease’s express disclosure of payment convenience fees—such fees are not allowed, and a debt collector’s attempts to collect them violate the FDCPA.   

The early termination fees were assessed because renters terminated their leases early. But those fees were not assessed to cover outstanding amounts owed under the renters’ leases. They were assessed so that the rental company could double dip—that is, collect the early termination fee and re-rent the apartment to a new renter.

In this particular case, the rental company’s termination agreement stated that a lease would be terminated only upon payment of an early termination fee exceeding $3,000. Even though the renter refused to pay that exorbitant fee, the rental company still pursued it through its debt collector on the basis that the lease had been terminated upon the renter’s request. At the same time, of course, the rental company had already found a new renter who was paying the rent that would have been owed by the original renter. We believe that the rental company cannot have its cake and eat it too—especially at the expense of a consumer.         

Unfortunately, abuses like these are common in the landlord-tenant context—even if you rent from a large, reputable company.  At Kelly Guzzo, we are committed to assisting consumers who have been subjected to landlord-tenant abuses and ensuing FDCPA violations. If you believe that you have a potential claim, please do not hesitate to contact our office to receive a free consultation.