Search Site
Menu
Appeals Court Critical of Law Firm’s “Scorched Earth” Collected Tactics in Landlord Tenant Case

Law firms hired by landlords in collection actions against tenants can be liable to pay the tenant both statutory penalties and attorneys fees if they use improper collection practices. That’s the ruling in an appeals court decision in the case of Kelly Williams v. Gluck & Tobin Esquires and Irving Tobin, which upheld an attorneys fee award of $20,852.80 and a $5000 statutory damage award against a law firm and the firm’s owner.

The facts of this case warrant review. The Plaintiff lived in Roselle Park in an apartment that qualified for Section 8 Assistance. The law firm initially filed a summary dispossess action on October 2016 which was dismissed after the tenant paid the overdue rent. Five more summary dispossess actions were then filed by the law firm, each demanding outstanding rent, late charges, lock and fee charges and perhaps ironically, attorneys fees.
Some of these charges were not permitted under the lease.

Plaintiff first sued the law firm in a Special Civil case, which resulted is a judgment in plaintiff’s favor. The Court found the law firm was a “debt collector” under the federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act who did engage in unfair collections practices by filing five unwarranted cases seeking attorneys fees and late charges that were prohibited charges under the controlling lease. The Court awarded a one thousand dollar penalty and attorneys fees and costs against the law firm in the amount of $25,604.53.

While that Special Civil case was pending, the Plaintiff started a new lawsuit in the Superior Court against the law firm essentially based on the same facts. The law firm failed to make a timely claim that the second case should be dismissed or consolidated with the first because it was essentially the same as the first case and the firm’s efforts to dismiss the second case on those grounds much later in the second case were rejected by the trial court as essentially coming too late in the process. The second court awarded plaintiff an additional $20,852.80 in attorneys fees, totaling over $45,000.00 against the law firm.

The appeals court upheld the second judgment. The Court found that many of the claims the law firm sought to advance on appeal were not properly included in the initial appellate filings, which meant that those claims could not be pursued on appeal. Further the appeals court found that the trial court’s findings were adequately supported by the record in the case.

Law firms retained by landlords need to recognize that they are collecting debts and are subject to federal laws that govern that practice. This requires that the firm make claims supported by the lease and avoid treating tenants unfairly. Failure to do so may reverse the tables: and it may the the law firm, not the tenant, who ends up paying hefty counsel fees.

Our Attorneys

Recent Twitter Posts

  • New report finds that significant offshore wind capacity exists along the Atlantic coast. https://t.co/EQG8d5VMw2
    3 weeks ago
  • The Murphy Administration plans to spend $200 million on wind port. https://t.co/Se09U5ZHvy
    1 month ago
  • NJDEP aims to simplify permitting process. https://t.co/UTm92DtrAC
    1 month ago
  • U.S. Supreme Court will hear PennEast Pipeline appeal of New Jersey eminent domain dispute. https://t.co/AqqvTw1QD2
    2 months ago

Recent Blog Posts

Environmental remediation timeframes extended again in February 2021 due to COVID-19

Throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, keeping up with deadlines and time frames has been a difficult task for many. The State of New Jersey as well as the New
Read More
Environmental remediation timeframes extended again in February 2021 due to COVID-19

New Jersey Courts Make it Easier for Commercial Landlords to Change the Locks and for Lenders to Foreclose

The COVID pandemic began in March of 2020 and placed many individuals, businesses and mortgage lenders in circumstances which seemingly only ever existed in their wildest dreams. Among those impacted
Read More
New Jersey Courts Make it Easier for Commercial Landlords to Change the Locks and for Lenders to Foreclose

Changes to Phase I Environmental Site Assessment standards may change federal environmental due diligence requirements.

At both the state and federal levels, purchasers of commercial property are required to perform certain environmental investigations in order to shield themselves from liability for contamination found after the
Read More
Changes to Phase I Environmental Site Assessment standards may change federal environmental due diligence requirements.

Appeals Court Critical of Law Firm’s “Scorched Earth” Collected Tactics in Landlord Tenant Case

Law firms hired by landlords in collection actions against tenants can be liable to pay the tenant both statutory penalties and attorneys fees if they use improper collection practices. That’s
Read More
Appeals Court Critical of Law Firm’s “Scorched Earth” Collected Tactics in Landlord Tenant Case

In the media

  • Gulf Coast Town Center facing foreclosure

    Naples Daily News, September 16, 2015

    Wells Fargo filed a lawsuit Sept. 8 against an affiliate of CBL & Associates, the owners of the decadeold, 1.2 million-square-foot mall in south Fort Myers for a $190.9 million unpaid loan. The center has 94 stores on 204 acres, with such anchors as Super Target, Belk, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Marshalls and Costco...

    Read More
  • Town liable for private company's leaking underground tanks, court rules

    NJ.com Jul 26, 2017

    CRANFORD -- A couple that owned a businesses in town and became sick from leaking underground tanks owned by an adjacent business can sue the township for damages because the tanks were partially ...

    Read More
  • Dark Waters: How a Class Action Catapulted NJ to Forefront of 'Forever Chemicals' Battle

    NJ Law Journal Jan 09, 2020

    As property owners become increasingly aware of PFAS contamination, and as individuals exposed to PFAS learn of the health risks associated with exposure, liability will likely affect entire supply chains.

    Read More
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
Contact Our Firm

Quick Contact Form