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COA reversal: Property manager can’t keep renter’s late fees

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A property owner’s lawsuit seeking a class action against a property management company that kept late fees paid by renters was revived by the Court of Appeals on Wednesday. The appellate panel reversed dismissal of the suit and ordered further proceedings.

Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote for the panel that Marion Superior Judge John Hanley erred in granting a motion to dismiss in Diane S. Brown Bell, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated v. The Bryant Company, Inc., 49A04-1305-PL-210.

The Bryant Company managed property for Bell, who learned at some point that a renter had occasionally paid $50 late fees to Bryant which the company claimed a right to keep. Friedlander, who wrote for the panel that also included Judges John Baker and Nancy Vaidik, found nothing in the agreement between Bell and Bryant stipulating or refuting Bryant’s claim to the late fees.

“It seems, therefore, that we are left to decide this matter based upon Bell’s assertion and our own common sense. Upon those considerations, we agree with Bell,” Friedlander wrote.

“At a minimum ... the trial court erred in granting Bryant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings with respect to Bell’s claim,” the panel held. The trial court also must weigh whether certification of a class in this case is appropriate under Trial Rule 23.

 

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