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Archstone Lawsuit Strikes Blow for Renters

Tenants who have been charged an "amenities fee" in Massachusetts may be entitled to a refund, thanks to a lawsuit filed against the former owners of Reading Commons.

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 —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 that was fueled by drug abuse.

The suspects in that case recently received , bringing the case and the complex back into the spotlight.

Tom Jeffords February 13, 2012 at 11:39 PM
The whole complex should be bull-dozed and trucked away.
Rob February 14, 2012 at 01:52 AM
No kidding. Wait to see what happens to the crime rate when the Addison Wesley projects are done.
Jason Fields February 14, 2012 at 02:41 AM
But wait a minute Jay Lenox said thats better then having nice retail shoppes in there. Reading is turning into Malden fast.
HM February 14, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Time to get out while the getting is good. Such a shame. I lived most of my life in Reading. Alas, Reading is gone.
sonny February 14, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Jason: Great comment and so true. Him and many others who became town meeting members oh so briefly and only attended while that particular issue was debated. Talk to any cop or read the police blog and you will see how many problems occur at Archstone, using up a lot of police time. Same will probably occur at Addison Wesley.
John February 14, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Jason & sonny, you are right on the money with this one. JL & his bunch of phoneys are a big part of what's wrong in today's Reading (& probably everywhere else for that matter), NIMBY, otherwise they couldn't give two poops. Self-centered and greedy folks.
M February 14, 2012 at 02:41 PM
FWIW, ALL the units being built @ A-W are to be condos (i.e., owned by residents) and not rental units like Archstone, which should make a difference in type of tenant...& they are only building 50 or so at a time. Presumably if the 1st 50 aren't selling they may not build more of same & may have to go back to town for use change. As for alleged "nice retail" that was proposed for a-w back in 2006 (when economy was booming), setting aside the issue of 20,000 cars/day through the south st intersection that was a primary issue about this development (in addition to shipping docks, restaurants, and dumpsters being adjacent to existing south & curtis street homes' backyards), well, there was ZERO written guarantee by the developer as to any type or "prestige" of proposed tenant, they did not rule out big box stores, etc., I think the only limit may have been the total amount of retail, not the size/type of any particular store. Many such proposed tenants @time like Borders & Domain have gone under. Similar project proposed for Lynnfield @ same time is only now just getting built, & I think Whole Foods is one of the only confirmed tenants. If such a development had been built in Reading, seems just as likely if ever built it could have resulted instead in tenants like Dollar Stores & Ocean State Job Lot. The abutters to a-w were willing to accept retail (though business was preferred), they just wanted smaller sq footage/retail, which developer wouldn't budge on.
Emily M February 14, 2012 at 02:44 PM
wow, there's going to be an influx of condos for sale in reading. what with A-W and the old Atlantic condos. Who's going to buy them??
CommonSenseCitizen February 14, 2012 at 02:56 PM
HM: I'm not so sure about that. Is the answer really retreating to somewhere else, or continuing to speak up and drag these things into the light? People should continue to comment publicly and fight for their neighborhoods. The kids involved in the home invasion should continue to be called out for being thugs (regardless of whether their parents object or friends defend how "nice" they were.) These elements only spread and grow where you let them. When I witnessed teens dealing drugs outside my house last summer I not only called the cops (who arrived an hour later) but loudly confronted them myself so that all the neighbors could hear. I then followed them on foot down the street continuing to do so. The result? They haven't been back. They're cowards. They want to remain hidden and unnoticed. Shine some light on them and they whither.
M February 14, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Totally agree #Emily M. Supposedly half the condos @A-W are to be age restricted, too (over 55), which MIGHT mean they will be a bit cheaper than other stuff on the market, which MIGHT mean they might sell better...assuming the older folks/seniors have the $ on hand & can sell their big old house somewhere & want to live on a cliff overlooking the highway...I didn't think this project was the greatest idea (to me, would have been better to have the Hallmark health facility that is now on Walker's brook), but I worry less about over 55 condo owners creating a crime problem than other populations. #CommonSenseCitizen-I agree people should fight for neighborhoods, and town should be open about crime stats in given areas/developments. Fighting for neighborhoods also means speaking up if you feel a development would greatly harm your neighborhood, too--it's not NIMBY. Unfortunately, with Ch 40B overriding density concerns we have, there is only so much one can do. It really is getting ridiculous the amount of drugs/drug arrests, etc., in town. Don't know if it is like this in our neighboring towns.
Emily M February 14, 2012 at 03:47 PM
All I know is if I had one of those lovely homes on South St or nearby I'd be really annoyed by this development. I guess I should be really grateful I live adjacent to a non-buildable parcel.
HM February 14, 2012 at 04:03 PM
CommonSenseCitizen, If that was all that is wrong with Reading, in my opinion, I would agree. I grew up in Reading, moved away for 5 years, and then bought a house here so that I could raise my children in the wonderful town that it once was. With all the building going on both with condos, and the way people are just cramming houses in wherever they find a spot, plus all the commercial development, Reading is rapidly becoming overcrowded and losing it's small town charm. Soon they will be looking to add on to the overcrowded and inadequate brand new high school. This town has never had any foresight. Did you know that there used to be seven elementary schools in the town. When the selectmen saw enrollment on the decline, they decided to demolish two of the schools, and sell the other two. They didn't think ahead, and then the town was forced to add on to existing schools and build a new one.
HM February 14, 2012 at 04:10 PM
There is the crime rate to consider as well. Yes, it is on the rise everywhere, but more so where there is easy access to the city, or in places that are becoming small cities. You said yourself that the police showed up an hour later. I have made a few recent calls to them on suspicious activities in my area and they never showed up. Not only that, the dispatcher at night gives you a very hard time. There was a long time selectman that resigned years ago because she didn't like what Reading was becoming. The other selectmen voted against her on all the building issues, Archstone was one of them. I can only see more crime as more complexes are added. People may own them, but most condo owners rent them out as apartments. My kids are grown now. They don't use the schools or public amenities anymore. I have noticed that their friend's parents are slowly but surely moving away from the town. Sadly, I will probably be leaving Reading behind too. Reading used to be a beautiful place to live and I never thought that I would leave.
CommonSenseCitizen February 14, 2012 at 04:37 PM
HM: Understood; you raise excellent points. I only addressed one of them, and being on the younger side, perhaps I only see what is and not what has changed. I will say I was discouraged to see the new housing development go up on Haven Street near the train station so I can sympathize with your position. On the other hand, since I am newer to town and like what I see so far, I don't feel like moving anywhere else. Perhaps I will just get more involved, rally like-minded folks, and try to get things moving in the right direction.
Jack Khas February 14, 2012 at 06:58 PM
if memory serves, the most heinous crimes in Reading have all occured in single-family homes. Hey, maybe we should ban those...and hockey too. Idiots
John February 14, 2012 at 07:10 PM
That's what makes these Patch blogs so entertaining, the folks who just love to paint with very wide brushes. Whether it's "new" housing developments being responsible for all the Reading crimes or labor unions being responsible for everything that's wrong in government or many other issues, these blogs bring out the self professed experts...high entertainment value for sure.
Susan P February 14, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Atlantic building will be apartments not condos btw.
sonny February 14, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Jack: Nobody was discussing heinous crimes it was more of a general discussion of the development of the town. That being said I think the issue is with the density of housing. More people in a smaller area. Most of the crimes and problems at Archstone are not of a heinous nature but they are time consuming to police.....domestic issues, thefts, disagreements between tenants. Read the police blog.
Dunbar February 14, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Yes, broad brushes. That's the way some people think. And a mall, in a residential area, right next to a highway. That certainly wouldn't have been responsible for any calls to police, because, you know, no crimes happen in malls. Heck, there are never any calls to the police from the retail establishments in town. If we only had that mall... we'd probably have police retiring early!!
sonny February 14, 2012 at 09:59 PM
At least malls close every night and some holidays. I worked at the Burlington Mall and I can tell you that we were required to report everything but the most serious matters to our store security or mall security. Burlington police were not that involved.
M February 14, 2012 at 10:12 PM
To those who think some of us are biased against rental property vs owner-occupied homes, as likely to increase crime rate, as if we have no good reasons for this: quick google of rental property crime rates found papers that DO support the notion that there is less crime in homeowner areas vs rental areas, for all the reasons one might suspect (e.g., home owners have stability & ties to community, more to lose, etc.), see, e.g., pg 11 & 12 at http://www.realtor.org/Research.nsf/files/05%20Social%20Benefits%20of%20Stable%20Housing.pdf/$FILE/05%20Social%20Benefits%20of%20Stable%20Housing.pdf Researchers do acknowledge that even though this is true, often it is a small % of the rental properties that are responsible for much of the crime, see e.g. http://www.equotient.net/papers/rental.pdf The 2nd page of this paper http://ucpi.digissance.com/system/files/file/Members%20Articles/eck1998.pdf summarizes it best "Drug dealers do not randomly or arbitrarily select the places from which they sell drugs. If they want to be able to sell drugs to anyone who is seeking to buy drugs, they have to be located where the buyers can find them and feel relatively safe...To reduce the chances of police intervention, dealers seek out places where owners or owners’ representatives *‘place managers’. are unlikely to intervene. And this means that dealers will be more likely found on rental properties where place managers have little incentive to manage their property...".
John February 15, 2012 at 12:16 AM
sonny, you way off on this one. The BPD would beg to differ with you. Have a cousin on the force, the Mall is by far and away their #1 destination day and night, the rent a cops are a joke.

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