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Class-action lawsuit against Equity Residential to proceed in California

One of the country’s biggest landlords is facing a class-action lawsuit by a group of its tenants who say they were charged excessive fees for late payments, in violation of state law.

A federal district court judge in Oakland, California, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White, gave the go-ahead for a class-action lawsuit to proceed against Equity Residential, the REIT led by billionaire Sam Zell, according to published reports.

The suit alleges that Equity Residential’s practice of charging a fee of either $50 or 5 percent of the total delinquent rent when tenants are only one day late is a violation of California anti-profiteering statutes. The time period for the violation is between September 3, 2010 and October 23, 2017, according to the complaint.

Sam Zell

The tenants also argue in the complaint that the Equity Residential charges an additional penalty when rent is current but an old late fee is outstanding, a practice that is illegal under California law.

According to standard notices that went out to former and current tenants of Equity Residential buildings, four former Equity Residential tenants brought the class-action suit, and are being represented by the law firms of Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, and Nicholas & Tomasevic.

Founded and led by Zell, Equity Residential is the third largest private owner of apartments in the US, with 78,000 units located primarily in Boston, New York, Washington DC, Seattle, San Francisco and Southern California.

In California, where the lawsuit was filed, the company has 36,000 units in 150 properties in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.

A representative for Equity Residential could not be reached for comment as of press time.

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