Today, CitiApartments will be served with a class action lawsuit by Brian Devine of Seeger Salvas, on behalf of all the former tenants of CitiApartments properties who have allegedly not received their uncontested security deposits within the required 21 day post-vacancy window. You can see the entire complaint here.
If you look at the complaint, you might find the stories of both the named plaintiffs familiar, as we spoke to them for our previous coverage of CitiApartments, one of the largest residential landlords in San Francisco.
We gave Brian Devine a call to get a better idea of what this means for folks who have vacated their CitiApartments residence, yet are either not getting their deposit on time, are only getting part of it back, or are not getting it back at all.
Brian Devine: After we serve them, they have 30 days, and generally we won’t hear anything during this period. On our end, as people start hearing about this suit, we want them to and start contacting us and tell us if they’ve gone through the same trouble. We’ll start building a database of their experiences, as we’ll have to establish with that evidence that this is a widespread practice, it’s not just a mistake in one or two cases.
The Appeal: What’s the best possible outcome, here?
Best case scenario: CitiApartments will acknowledge that they have been doing this and will agree to start complying with the law and and immediately refund all uncontested past due deposits, and will engage in good practices going forward. In that case, all class members will immediately benefit.
If CitiApartments doesn’t agree to that, we have to fight it out in court.CA process can be very long, and it’s all dependent on defendant cooperation. In that case, using the information we collect at apartmentlawsuit.com, we’ll extablish the patter I told you about, establish all the requirements of a class action, and establish that a defendant has a business practice of violating the law.
Then we’ll show liability and prove that the defendant did in fact violate the law in a hearing or trial. Then the court will order a judgment. And if we can prove that the defendant acted in bad faith in the cases where it took them longer than 21 days to return the plaintiffs’ deposits, they can be awarded as much as two times their deposit.
Why are you filing this suit? What’s in it for you?
If we do prevail, the court has the power to order CitiApartments to pay Plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees. That’s the financial incentive to allow attorneys to devote their time to cases where they’re not billing hours during the case.
What’s in it for us is fighting for the little guy and being on the right side. If CitiApartments is telling people they have to file in small claims to get their deposit back, this suit empowers those people who might be intimidated by the system to assert their claims.
And, hopefully this sends a message to all the landlords in the city and state that just because you’re bigger than your tenant doesn’t mean you don’t have to treat him with respect, or that you can taunt your tenants with their inability to get their deposit back from you.
What would you tell anyone who was considering renting from CitiApartments?
I think that, based on what we’ve heard, CitiApartments is telling people they don’t have the money to return deposits. That would make me seriously question the mortgage, wonder if the building will be foreclosed on, or if they can afford to maintain it. If I were looking for a place, I’d definitely think twice about renting from CitiApartments.
Has CitiApartments taken more than 21 days to return your deposit, or failed to do so at all? Let Seeger Salvas know here.