Apartment Owners To Pay Back Excessive Application Fees
State regulators say Hyattsville landlords charged up to $1,000, nonrefundable, to apply for an apartment, among other charges. Now the owners will have to pay $500,000 settle consumer protection charges.
The owners of the Ager Road Station apartment complex in Hyattsville will have to pay back customers who were allegedly scammed by apartment managers into paying fictitious expenses and exorbitant application fees.
It's part of a settlement with Maryland's Consumer Protection Division. The apartment owners will have to pay a total of $500,000 back to bilked customers and agreed to forgive an estimated $300,000 in damages sought in court against tenants for payments not actually owed.
The 19 building, 237 unit apartment complex, managed by Robert Thacker, is located in the most Hispanic census block in Hyattsville.
"Property managers cannot take advantage of their tenants without facing consequences," said Attorney General Gansler in a press release announcing the settlement. "Tenants should always demand receipts when paying rent and other charges, and document the condition of their apartments when they move out."
The owners of Ager Road Station denied that they had broken any laws.
According to the Maryland Attorney General's office, apartment management allegedly charged potential tenants application fees of up to $1,000, refusing to refund the fee even if an applicant turned down an apartment. They were also accused of seeking payments with fabricated invoices, charging excessive bounced check fees, deducting money from security deposits for nonexistent damages, and trying to collect other frivolous fees.
Failure to pay up often meant a court battle.
The owners of Ager Road Station were extremely litigious. Over the last 10 years, according to Maryland's Judiciary Case Records, the landlords filed more than 500 lawsuits seeking payment against tenants for various alleged damages. Regulators say they used false evidence, like the fabricated invoices, to support their arguments in court.
As part of the settlement, apartment managers will be prohibited from collecting payments for damages and other charges unless the damages can be documented at the time they are claimed. They are also required to return any application fees or deposits not used to pay for a credit check or processing if the applicant decides not to rent with Ager Road Station.
Calls to Ager Road Station apartment management were not returned.