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Baltimore property manager to pay $500k to settle illegal rent fee claims

A Baltimore property management group will establish a $524,000 fund to repay tenants for overcharged legal fees associated with failure to pay rent cases as part of a class settlement reached last month.

The settlement against Virginia-based Harbor Group Management Co. was approved June 20 by Baltimore City Circuit Judge Videtta A. Brown.

The lawsuit, filed in 2017, alleged Harbor Group managed residential apartment buildings in Maryland and charged tenants a “court cost” and “legal fee” on their bills around the same time it charged a late fee. The late fee, 5% of the monthly rent, is the maximum allowed under Maryland law.

“The issue is just that there are so many fees that are added on and it’s difficult for regular folks to look at something and say, ‘Hey, hold on, is there a statute or is there something in my lease that allows them to charge this?’” attorney Matthew T. Vocci said Monday.

The plaintiff class members will receive a share of the fund. Harbor Group also agreed to waive collection of nearly $200,000 in additional legal fees and will train its employees about maximum permitted charges, according to a news release from Santoni, Vocci & Ortega LLC in Towson, who served as class counsel.

Vocci said the settlement affects as many as 3,400 current and former tenants, though the award will be distributed by rental unit not by person.

“I am thankful that so many tenants will receive reimbursement,” class representative Rashid Roberts said in a statement. “It is great to be a part of something that will make a difference for people who might be struggling to make ends meet.”

Santoni, Vocci & Ortega will receive $145,000 in attorneys’ fees and $19,000 in costs from the settlement fund.

Defense attorney Judith G. Lysaught, of counsel at Gordon & Rees LLP in Washington, did not respond to a request for comment.

The case is Rashid Roberts et al. v. Harbor Group Management Co. LLC et al., 24-C 17-000509.

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