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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.

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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