Joint Statement by Parties to Bennett et al. v. Dunne Wright Services, LLC, et al., Cir. Ct. for Balt. City Case No. 24-C-15002182
September 30, 2016
Tenants and Landlord reach amicable resolution of dispute.
On September 29, 2016, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City granted preliminary approval to a class action settlement in Bennett et al. v. Dunne Wright Services, LLC, et al., Cir. Ct. for Balt. City Case No. 24-C-15002182. According to their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that residential property management company Dunne Wright Services, LLC, and Chad Lane had engaged in practices that violate landlord-tenant and consumer protection laws in the assessment of allegedly illegal fees, the allocation of tenants’ payments to non-rent charges first, and other rent collection practices. Defendants denied the allegations of the complaint and disputed all liability in the case. Defendants contended that their practices were not illegal, followed customary practices and did not violate any laws. The parties disagreed about the interpretation of the current applicable law as well as the damages being claimed by Plaintiffs.
To avoid further expense, uncertainty, and delay, the parties have agreed to a settlement that was granted preliminary approval by the Circuit Court. The settlement compromises the amount of damages claimed and provides that current and former tenants of Dunne Wright since May 1, 2012, who have experienced the practices alleged in the complaint may be entitled to a certain amount of debt reduction, rent credits, and/or monetary compensation. The settlement also reached a compromise on the interpretation of the law, such that, Dunne Wright has agreed to modify their existing rent collection and property management practices for the benefit of its tenants and to avoid any controversy in the future. These changes include defining rent to include only the fixed sum due from the tenant each month (not including repair charges or utilities, which will be classified as non-rent charges), allocating tenant payments first to any outstanding rent charges and then to non-rent charges, revising late fee and filing fee policies to only charge tenants for the costs of filing an eviction complaint based on the amounts charged by the District Court, and clarifying that the landlord is responsible for repairs to all conditions that are threats to life, health or safety and housing code violations that are specified as the landlord’s responsibility, except in situations where the need for repairs is caused by the tenant.
Notice of this proposed settlement will be sent to all Class Members who have rented a residential property under Dunne Wright’s management since May 1, 2012.
The Court’s Order Granting Preliminary Approval to the settlement and the Settlement Agreement are available for public review. Class Members are represented in this matter by attorneys Matt Hill of the Public Justice Center and Thomas Minton of Goldman & Minton. Class Members who have additional questions may contact these attorneys:
C. Matthew Hill
Public Justice Center
1 N. Charles St., Ste. 200
Baltimore, MD 21201
Thomas J. Minton
Goldman & Minton, P.C.
P.O. Box 19926
Baltimore, MD 21211