Apartment “Amenity Use Fee” Ruled Unlawful In Class Action Against Archstone Properties

by Rich Vetstein on February 11, 2012 · 13 comments

in Disclosures, Landlord Tenant Law, Leasing, Massachusetts Real Estate Law

Federal Judge Rules $475 Apartment Amenity Use Fee Violates Massachusetts Security Deposit Law

Some large apartment owners, such as Archstone Properties, have been charging tenants a separate “amenity use fee” for use of the community pool, workout room, media center and other amenities, or a separate “move-in” fee or pet fee. The fees can be rather hefty; several hundred dollars in many cases. Well, a federal judge recently struck down these fees as illegal under the Massachusetts Security Deposit Law. What’s more, the judge has allowed a class action to proceed against Archstone Reading apartment complex which may be on the hook for thousands if not millions in refunds to tenants. Other apartment complexes may have legal exposure if they used similar amenity use fees.

Massachusetts Amenity Fee Class Action

The case is Hermida v. Archstone Properties (D. Mass. Nov. 29, 2011). The case arose out of a $475 amenity use fee charged by Archstone Properties in their Reading, Massachusetts apartment complex. The judge ruled that under Massachusetts law, landlords can only charge tenants for: (1) first month’s rent, (2) last month’s rent, (3) a security deposit, and (4) a key installation fee. The additional amenity use fee is illegal, Judge Young ruled, if it is required, not optional, and charged up front, i.e, a condition to renting. Judge Young also approved the case for class action status.

The class action attorney handling the case, Matthew Fogelman, Esq., is also investigating whether other apartment complexes and landlords have charged similar amenity use fees, move in fees and/or pet fees, for potential class actions against those apartment complexes. If you were ever charged a separate amenity use fee, move-in fee, or pet fee as part of your rental lease, please email me at info@vetsteinlawgroup.com and I will put you in contact with the case attorney. You could be entitled to a refund of several hundred dollars and possibly additional compensation.

Alert: Property managers are asking tenants to sign releases to get a refund of their amenity use fees. DO NOT SIGN ANY RELEASE OR WAIVER FORM UNTIL YOU HAVE CONSULTED WITH AN ATTORNEY. YOU COULD BE WAIVING YOUR RIGHT TO COLLECT THE MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF COMPENSATION.

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Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts Real Estate Litigation Attorney who has litigated hundreds of cases in the Massachusetts Land and Superior Courts. For further information you can contact him at info@vetsteinlawgroup.com.

This post may be considered “attorney advertising.”

  • veron adams

    my colleague was wanting a form several days ago and learned about a website that has a lot of sample forms . If people require it too , here’s a https://goo.gl/fcxkNU.

  • Yes i had to pay a pet fee also pay pet rent every month if the court approved that then i should not pay a pet fee if it was passed. In mass.

  • Terri

    I live in Florida. If an Apartment complex advertises an amenity and that amenity doesn’t exist or that amenity breaks down and is never fixed, do i have a leagal right to get out of my lease agreement?

    • Lorisa

      Terri, Did you ever get any answers on your question? I too had to deal with the same issues. The pool and the gym haven’t worked in 3years. The wall to the gym even fell over and I had to call the landlord to come fix it at 2am. This is suppose to be a secured building with card keys to get into the building but yet the wall was down and anyone could enter from the gym, without a key.

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  • Wayne P. Deaton Jr

    So I am still confused can my landlord charge me a pet fee every month?? I have no issues with a pet deposit, but I have to pay 50.00 a month if I want a dog

  • Mr. Vetstein. I was directed to your recent victory with Archstone. I am currently paying 100.00 per month for my 2 dogs. They are older so no damage.
    I also am living in what is advertised as affordable rent. The cap in my city is 828. I believe and I am paying more. I am on dissability, and have a income limit.
    To qualify for housing here there is a min. and a max on salary. Would this be considered affordable housing?
    They continue to increase residents rent, but have not changed any criteria for residency.
    I am curious to know what you think. I am considering not paying the pet fee this month and use your case as a reference for why.
    Any feed back would be greatly appreciated.

  • moving to waltham

    I am moving into Windsor Village in Waltham this upcoming July, and they charge an optional one time ammenity fee of $400 to use the pool/gym. Is it legal because the fee is optional? I am still trying to figure out if it is just the mandatory fee that is illegal, or if an ammenity fee in general is illegal.

  • Luvhappy34

    Try living at an amico property monthly 40 per pet, now a monthly parking fee which we did not have until last year. In fact all aimco properties charge parking as of 2010. They also require insurance in the amount of 50k for any damage you or a guest incurs while visiting. This insurance you can only buy from one carrier ( who aimco recommends smells of a kickback). This was newly required as of last years renewals cost 14 extra each month and is not renters insurance. Aimco REIT should not get any federal breaks their rents are sky high even for mold centipede basement apartments. Wish someone would investigate them.

  • Jeffrey Parkhurst

    Mr Vetstein,  as a realtor I was aware of the Standard, First, Last, Security and Re-Key fee.  However the Pet Fee is a new one I wasnt aware of.  This means, the land lord cant charge an initial fee at lease inception but can however charge a monthly fee and can also increase the security deposit from a standard Securty Fee to a Pet Occupied Security Fee of a higher amount, correct?  Thank you JP

    •  Jeff, for security deposits, landlords cannot charge more than equivalent to a month’s rent. So if the rent is $1200/month, the security deposit cannot be above $1200.

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  • Trishkilcullen

    It is also a choice to rent to people with pets.

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