The following press statement went out today regarding a class action lawsuit filed by three Right to Housing Alliance Members.
March 7th, 2014
***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
Today three Members of Right to Housing Alliance filed a class-action lawsuit against their property manager, Sage Management, LLC. The plaintiffs, Detrese Dowridge, Shonda Billings, and Trachell Speaks claim that abuses such as charging of illegal fees in the suite of late charges, hiding illegal fees on tenant ledgers, misapplication of tenants’ rent payments to mask illegal fees, and intentionally misleading tenants on “pay-to-stay” notices, are part of an overall predatory accounting scheme aimed to keep tenants continually paying more fees. They estimate that among the 200-250 tenants that Sage routinely drag through Baltimore City’s District Court for non-payment each month, these fees and associated charges net Sage over $10,000 per month. Including court costs, this is an additional burden of over $15,000 per month ($67 per tenant) on tenants who are already struggling to afford rent in Baltimore City.
On January 7, 2014 over fifty tenants of Sage Management properties around Baltimore City sent a certified letter to Gil Horwitz, owner of Sage Management, requesting an “end to accounting practices that we believe are predatory and/or in violation of City and/or State laws. Additionally, conditions issues in your properties are causing threats to our life, health, and safety, and we feel that you and your staff have not been responsive in addressing these complaints.” They went on to list the accounting practices outlined above, to demand a full audit of all tenant ledgers and repayment of illegal fees, and property-wide mold and pest remediation. They received no response from Mr. Horwitz.
Plaintiff Detrese Dowridge says “We feel like our human right to safe, adequate, and affordable housing has been violated and they are able to get away with this because we have a court system which allows this to happen. The courts make it impossible for tenants to get justice even when the landlord is wrong. This is an ongoing problem in Baltimore and in other cities in the United States.”
Shonda Billings, also a plaintiff, says “It’s aggravating when you’re paying your rent on time and they take the payment and do what they want to do with it. And people are struggling to pay as it is. We pretty much have to do what they want or we’re gonna be on the street.” She goes on to say “It’s not a money issue for me, they already got my money. I’m just hoping that it makes other landlords stop rushing to go to court all the time. The courts make it very clear that the tenants have no power.”
Trachell Speaks states “We all are intelligent people. We are all human beings and I feel that Sage Management doesn’t treat us as such. What I want from Sage is to consider our human rights.”
The three plaintiffs are represented in Detrese Dowridge, et al. v. Sage Management, LLC, by the Public Justice Center and the law firm of Goldman & Minton, P.C.
Detrese Dowridge & Jessica Lewis