If you live in an apartment and you have been forced to pay an “amenities fee,” you may be entitled to get that money back from your landlord, and a lawsuit that originated in Reading is the reason why, according to a report last week by WHDH News.
This story began with a lawsuit involving the Archstone apartments—now known as Reading Commons—who, according to the lawsuit, were charging renters an upfront $475 fee to use the pool, the gym and the outdoor grill.
Former Reading residents Jefflee and Maeve Hermida, who used to reside at the Archstone Circle apartments, felt this upfront fee was illegal and took the matter to court in December of 2010. The Hermidas contended that Massachusetts state law allows landlords to charge only the first and last month’s rent, a security deposit and the cost of a new lock and key, and that up front amenities fees were illegal.
U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young sided with the Hermidas, and ruled in their favor in November of last year—the ruling extended to the Hermidas’ neighbors as well, according to WHDH.
The ruling opens the door for any renters charged an “amenities fee” during the last four years to file a claim for the return of that money.
"Anyone who has paid this fee in the last four years has a claim to get that money back," Attorney Matt Fogelman, the lawyer for the tenants, told WHDH. "The average tenant has no idea what fees are permissible, and what fees are not permissible ... all they want to do is live somewhere."
According to the WHDH report, other renters are now seeking to recoup such fees, and more importantly, landlords are still charging the user fees, despite the federal court’s ruling.
Attorney Fogelman offered the following advice for those who find themselves facing such fees to WHDH: "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."
The crime-plagued Apartment complex was all over the news last year, but for an all together more sinister reason, as it was the scene of one of the more brazen crimes in recent Reading memory—an armed home invasion that was fueled by drug abuse.
The suspects in that case recently received sentences with no jail time, bringing the case and the complex back into the spotlight.