CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST LAW FIRM WHO ILLEGALLY PROFITS FROM MASS EVICTIONS ACROSS VIRGINIA
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), along with the Legal Aid Society of Roanoke Valley and the Charlottesville law firm MichieHamlett, today filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of tenants throughout the state of Virginia against Senex Law alleging abusive and unfair debt collection practices in violation of federal law.
Senex Law, P.C. is a debt collection mill representing landlords across the Commonwealth of Virginia and has a starring role in the state’s mass evictions. Landlords throughout Virginia contract with Senex Law to prepare and send notices to tenants whenever a renter is late on a rent payment. With each notice, Senex charges the tenant attorney’s fees—though the firm did little more than print and mail a letter—raking in big profits off the backs of those most in need. Senex Law then, a few days later, files hundreds of Unlawful Detainers in court, again adding their attorney fee despite no meaningful review of the cases they file. It is simply impossible for Senex Law to provide the services they claim to the enormous volume of notices and cases they process.
And, because it is functioning as a debt collector, Senex Law must provide specific information required by federal law to prevent abusive and unfair debt collection practices. This includes the right to have 30 days to verify that the amount billed is accurate, among other protections. Instead of providing this required information, Senex Law ignores the law by attempting to hide behind landlords, disguising its true role in the profit scheme, and eagerly collecting their fees.
These practices are abhorrent at any time, but as our state struggles through the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, Senex Law continues to prey on poor tenants who have few options.
“The Legal Aid Society of Roanoke Valley (LASRV) believes that SENEX is using deceptive practices while attempting to collect alleged past due rent from many of our clients and their neighbors living in the Roanoke Valley, “ said David Biedler, LASRV Executive Director, “LASRV wants to help affected tenants stop the deception once and for all and believes that a class action lawsuit against SENEX is the most efficient and effective way to do that.”
“Senex Law has taken extraordinary measures to try and skirt the protections Congress put in place to try and prevent abusive debt collection practices. They lurk in the shadows so they can flout necessary consumer protections and charge attorneys’ fees that put Virginians who are already in financial trouble further into the hole,” said Brenda Castañeda, Legal Director with the Legal Aid Justice Center.
“It’s no coincidence that Senex operates in five jurisdictions that rank in the top ten for highest eviction rates in the United States. MichieHamlett is proud to partner with the Legal Aid Justice Center and the Legal Aid Society of the Roanoke Valley to prosecute a case against a company that, in our opinion, unquestionably contributes to the epidemic of housing instability within the Commonwealth,”said Bryan Slaughter, an Attorney at MitchieHamlett PLLC
In today’s lawsuit, filed by the attorneys of LAJC, LASRV, and MichieHamlett, the Plaintiffs bring claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and ask the Court to compensate them for their victimization by Senex’s abusive debt collection practices and baseless fees.
About the Legal Aid Justice Center
LAJC partners with communities and clients to achieve justice by dismantling systems that create and perpetuate poverty. By justice, we mean racial, social, and economic justice. We integrate individual representation, impact litigation, policy advocacy, and organizing strategies to identify and address root causes of poverty while mitigating acute impacts.
About Legal Aid Society of Roanoke Valley
The Legal Aid Society of Roanoke Valley (LASRV) applies a full range of expert legal services to identify and resolve the most critical civil injustices facing low-income people. The LASRV is a non-profit organization offering free civil law help and services to qualifying low income residents of Roanoke, Salem, Lexington, Ovington, Clifton Forge, Bedford, Botetourt, Craig, Franklin, Alleghany, Rockbridge and Bath counties.
MichieHamlett has been serving clients for over 70 years in the courts of Virginia and the United States in multiple areas of the law. In addition to maintaining a strong litigation practice in commercial, domestic, and personal injury cases, the firm has represented and advised clients on matters ranging from trusts and estates to complex commercial transactions. Eleven of the firm’s attorneys are listed in “Best Lawyers,” which is the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession. Nine attorneys are “Super Lawyers,” which is a list of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The firm represents clients throughout the mid-atlantic, including Virginia, the District of Columbia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, and more.