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For Immediate Release
August 12, 2005
Media Contact:
Kevin Enright 410-576-6357

PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANY SETTLES WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE


Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that his Consumer Protection Division has reached a settlement with a Chicago-based real estate investment trust that managed residential properties in Maryland, including apartment complexes in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties. The company, Equity Residential Properties Management Corp. ("Equity Residential"), Two North Riverside Plaza, Suite 400, Chicago, IL 60606-2709, agreed to return approximately $294,000 to consumers that the Division alleged was improperly deducted from consumers’ security deposits, as well as application fees the company charged consumers that the Division alleged were excessive under Maryland law.

" I am happy that we were able to obtain restitution for these tenants," said Attorney General Curran. "The law requires landlords to advise tenants of their rights under the Security Deposit Law and limits the application fees that tenants can be charged."

The Consumer Protection Division alleged that Equity Residential violated the Maryland Security Deposit Law by failing to provide consumers who resided in its Montgomery County properties receipts explaining their rights under the Security Deposit Law. The Division also alleged that Equity Residential failed to maintain security deposits in a separate escrow account and improperly deducted mandatory termination fees from security deposits. The Division also alleged that Equity Residential violated the Maryland Application Fee Law by requiring excessive application fees from consumers applying to rent apartments. Maryland law limits the amounts which consumers may be charged to apply for a residential apartment to no more than $25 or the actual cost for processing an application (i.e., credit, criminal background or employment checks). Equity Residential denied that it has violated the law.

In the settlement, Equity Residential agreed to provide all of its tenants with an appropriate security deposit receipt and to pay each consumer who did not receive such a receipt in the past restitution of $25. Equity Residential also agreed not to charge tenants mandatory termination fees, to refund any termination fees it deducted from tenants’ security deposits in the past, and to maintain security deposits in a separate escrow account. Equity Residential further agreed not to charge application fees that exceed $25, unless it actually expends amounts more than $25 on a credit check or other expenses arising out of the application for a lease. Equity has agreed to pay restitution to consumers equal to the amount in excess of $25 that it charged consumers in connection with their application to lease, unless such amounts were already refunded to the consumer or credited to the consumer as either a security deposit or rent. Finally, Equity Residential agreed to pay the Division $15,000 for its investigation costs and a $75,000 civil penalty.

Consumers eligible for restitution under the settlement will be contacted by the Consumer Protection Division.

 

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