The Colorado Poverty Law Project has sued a prominent Rocky Mountain state eviction firm and three corporate landlords alleging they illegally charged fees and court costs during evictions.
Eviction firm Tschetter Sulzer and landlords Cornerstone Apartment Services, Redpeak Properties and Echelon Property Group conducted a deceptive scheme to charge illegal fees despite tenants’ efforts to correct their unpaid rent, the class-action lawsuit alleges. denver man reports.
At the heart of the lawsuit is a Colorado law that grants tenants a 10-day grace period to settle rent arrears before initiating eviction proceedings. If tenants can pay what they owe before the case reaches court, they can avoid eviction.
In these cases, landlords are prohibited from charging attorneys’ fees, a provision designed to prevent tenants from facing additional financial burdens that exacerbate housing insecurity.
The suit argues that Tschetter Sulzer’s forms included provisions requiring tenants to pay all outstanding amounts to keep their homes, leading many tenants to enter into such agreements.
Courtney Woodruff, one of the plaintiffs in the case, emphasized the importance of following the law.
“Unless the law actually allows it, it’s unfair for a landlord to require a tenant to pay attorneys’ fees and costs,” Woodruff told the outlet.
Because of Tschetter Sulzer’s wide reach in the state, the lawsuit has been filed as a class action that includes three tenants from Denver and two from Adams County.
The suit alleges that Tschetter Sulzer took advantage of tenants’ lack of legal representation and understanding of the eviction process and took advantage of those disadvantages to illegally collect attorneys’ fees and expenses.
While landlords often have legal representation in eviction proceedings, tenants often lack the same resources and knowledge. As a result, they find themselves at a disadvantage, unaware of their rights and the fees being charged.
Evictions in Colorado have surged past pre-pandemic levels over the past year, generating handsome profits for Tschetter Sulzer, who specializes in eviction litigation.
The lawsuit says the company violated state law by using standardized forms to require tenants to pay attorneys’ fees and costs. Tschetter Sulzer charged $283 for initiating the eviction and an hourly fee thereafter, while the landlord raised the fee by $300 to $500 without disclosing it to tenants, according to the lawsuit cited by the outlet.
The Colorado Poverty Law Project claims that Tschetter Sulzer’s alleged practices make it difficult, if not impossible, for tenants to correct eviction cases and increase the likelihood that families will be evicted.
The lawsuit comes as states grapple with a nationwide housing crisis, calling for more housing to be built in Connecticut, and YIMBYs have recently won in Washington and Vermont.
— Ted Glazer