TENANTS ALLEGE DECEPTIVE NOTICES AND HIGH FEES IN CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT
Charlottesville, Virginia, October 5, 2016 – Five tenants from Richmond, Charlottesville and Harrisonburg have filed a class-action lawsuit in the Charlottesville federal court against Senex Law, P.C., a debt collection firm hired by the plaintiffs’ and many other Virginia landlords. The plaintiffs, represented pro bono by the Legal Aid Justice Center and the law firm of MichieHamlett, allege that Senex uses deceptive practices to collect alleged delinquent rent and other fees from tenants, in violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Senex’s practices harm tenants through costly additional charges and for some, lengthy eviction records. The five plaintiffs have brought the case on behalf of a statewide class of tenants who suffered at the hands of Senex’s unlawful practices.
“Senex sells its system as an easy time-saver for landlords, but it’s anything but easy for tenants,” said Bryan Slaughter, MichieHamlett senior counsel. “Once they are behind on rent, the high extra fees charged by Senex make it difficult for our clients to ever get back on track.”
The suit alleges that Senex violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by sending notices purporting to come from landlords, but which were actually drafted and mailed by Senex. The notices do not contain federally-mandated language disclosing Senex’s identity as a debt collector, or describing the procedure that recipients can use to challenge their accuracy. This business practice hurts tenants, costs them substantial money, and puts them at unnecessary and repeated risk of eviction.
Senex then quickly files eviction actions in bulk, generating more costs to tenants and relying on sometimes outdated or inaccurate information from landlords. “This practice goes beyond a simple technical violation of the law. It has real costs to our clients, financial and otherwise, because it can ruin their rental record and their chances to find other housing in the future,” said Kim Rolla, Legal Aid Justice Center’s lead attorney on the case
“It’s been really hard for my family to keep up with all these extra charges,” said Teri Crawford, a named plaintiff in the class-action suit. “I just want stability, to keep a roof over my kids’ heads. I pay my rent. But it seems like every time we’re even a little late, we get hit with a bunch of fees.”
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