Full Notification & Explanation of Class Action Settlement
Conroy v. Apts. Downtown, case no. LACV072840, is a case brought by the Iowa Tenants' Project on behalf of tenants in Johnson County District Court that challenges a variety of provisions previously found in the standard lease of Apts. Downtown. The Court ruled that the standard lease that Apts. Downtown had in effect for the 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 lease terms contained various provisions that were prohibited under the Iowa Landlord Tenant Act. The Court also certified Conroy v. Apts. Downtown as a class action. You can see the Court's summary judgment and class action certification order HERE.
A class action is a type of lawsuit in which one or several persons sue on behalf of a larger group of persons, referred to as the class. Molly Burke, whose lease was ruled on by the Court, is the class representative. The class consists of all Apts. Downtown and Apts. Near Campus tenants which had the same lease as Ms. Burke, which are tenants and subtenants for
the for the 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 lease terms. All members of the class are automatically included in the class, but may choose to opt out or exclude themselves from the class. If the class members fail to opt out, even if they were not aware of the class action, they are still bound by the ruling or settlement in the case. The Court has appointed attorneys Christopher Warnock and Christine Boyer, of the Iowa Tenants' Project as class counsel to represent the class.
Ms. Burke, as class representative, with the advice and assistance of her counsel, the Iowa Tenants' Project, has agreed with Apts. Downtown, to settle the case. You can see the complete proposed settlement here. Because this is a class action, the Court must approve any settlement and ensure that it is reasonable and fair for all class members. The Court has preliminarily approved the settlement and has set a fairness hearing for 1:30 p.m. on Monday, July 18, 2016 at the Johnson County Courthouse to determine whether to finally approve the settlement. You can see the Court's preliminary settlement order HERE.
The proposed settlement provides for a payment of $65 per tenant or subtenant for each lease term, during the four annual lease terms that the standard lease was in effect. Thus if a class member was a tenant for 2012-13 and 2013-14 they would receive $130.
The $65 payment was arrived at by considering the following factors:
(1) This class action involves only damages due to prohibited lease provisions because all class members must have had the same injury. Charges, particularly security deposit deductions that were made on an individual basis, for example charges for cleaning a particular unit, or charges for damage to a particular unit, cannot be recovered in a class action. Tenants are free, however, to pursue their own cases for individual damages which are not affected by this class action.
(2) The parties believe that, of the provisions found to be prohibited by the Court, the automatic carpet cleaning provision was charged most frequently, other charges were made on a much more sporadic basis.
(3) The lease provides for a charge of $95 for an efficiency unit with up to $225 for 6+ bedroom unit. The parties believe that $65 is a reasonable, overall compromise payment.
(4) Another issue is that some tenants vacated their units with carpets that were dirty beyond normal wear and tear and Apts Downtown was legally permitted to charge them for carpet cleaning.
(5) Another issue is that while the district court found automatic carpet cleaning clauses to be prohibited, the issue is currently on appeal before the Iowa Supreme Court in DeStefano v. Apts Downtown, 14-0820.
(6) While punitive damages could potentially be awarded under the Iowa Landlord Tenant act, §562A.11, in order for punitive damages to be awarded the landlord must have knowingly and willfully used the prohibited provisions. Apts Downtown disputes that the provisions, if prohibited, were used knowingly and willfully. In addition, the issue of the proper standard for knowing and willful use is currently pending before the Iowa Supreme Court in Caruso v. Apts Downtown, 14-1783.
(7) The settlement in this case is part of a larger global settlement which includes a settlement in Migliore v. Apts. Downtown, CVCV77525, also currently pending in the Johnson County District Court. Landlord has agreed to the Complaint Process, set forward in the proposed Migliore Consent Decree and Apts Near Iowa Complaint Process Agreement, which you can see here. Under the Complaint Process, if tenants of Apts Downtown, Apts Near Campus or Apts Near Iowa have a complaint which they cannot resolve with their landlord, then the landlord will pay for the Iowa Tenants Project to represent the tenant and help resolve the complaint, including paying for attorney fees for litigation and on appeal.
(8) In addition as part of the settlement in Migliore Apts Downtown, Apts Near Campus and Apts Near Iowa have conferred with the Iowa Tenants Project and removed all prohibited provisions from their leases.
Based on all these factors, the parties believe that the proposed settlement and class member payments are fair and reasonable. If the entire class claimed their payment, the total cost would be approximately $910,000. If the Court approves settlement, class members would be bound by it as far as any claims for actual or punitive damages or attorney fees for the use of prohibited lease provisions, but not for claims that must be proven on a case by case basis or any claims for wrongfully withholding security deposits other than under prohibited provisions.
Apts Downtown has agreed to pay all court costs, costs of notification and of the claims process in addition to the class payments.
Class counsel's fees are determined by the Court. Under the settlement agreement attorney fees will not be paid from the class payment, but Class Counsel will seek an award of attorney fees under the Landlord Tenant Act. The Landlord Tenant Act does not permit contingency fees, but requires that fees be reasonable and calculated as hourly fees. Apts Downtown has agreed that $250 per hour as attorney fees is reasonable and that 375 hours for Christopher Warnock as lead counsel ($93,750) and 41.5 hours for Christine Boyer as co-counsel ($10,375) are reasonable as an initial payment for work done before settlement was reached. Apts Downtown has agreed that Class Counsel can seek an additional award of attorney fees from the Court after the class claims are paid and the case concluded in order to compensate counsel for their work on notification and the claims process.
Opting Out & Objections
Class members have the right to opt-out of the settlement. If they opt out of the settlement they are not bound by it, but will not receive the class member payment of $65 per year of tenancy. Class members can opt-out online HERE.
Class members may object to the settlement and may appear at the fairness hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, July 18, 2016 at the Johnson County Courthouse. You can ask the Court to deny approval of the settlement by filing an objection. You can’t ask the Court to order a larger settlement; the Court can only approve or deny the settlement. If the Court denies approval, no settlement payments will be sent out and the lawsuit will continue. You can object by sending a Notice of Objections HERE. You can also appear at the fairness hearing by sending a Notice of Intention to Appear HERE.
Class members can register and start the claims process HERE. No payments can be made unless and until the Court approves the settlement. Claims must be verified for eligibility and identity. For all claims, class members must provide their contact information and for each year of tenancy, the building address of their apartment building or house. There are two types of claims: expedited, which are faster and unexpedited, which will take longer to verify.
Landlord does not maintain a comprehensive list of tenants. In order to verify eligibility, Landlord will have to check its leases and other internal records individually for each claimant. In addition, requiring additional information prevents fraudulent claims and identity theft.
(1) Non multi-unit Houses. Class members that lived in non multi-unit houses must provide the street address/mailing address for each year of tenancy. If they do, they have an expedited claim. If they cannot provide their street address/mailing address for each year of tenancy they cannot make a claim.
(2) For class members that lived in a multi-unit house or apartment building, they must provide their street address/mailing address of their multi-unit house or apartment building for each year of tenancy. If, in addition to this, they also provide the unit number for each year of tenancy, they also have an expedited claim.
Class members that lived in a multi-unit house or apartment building, must provide their street address/mailing address of their multi-unit house or apartment building for each year of tenancy. If they don't know the unit number, they need to provide two pieces of the following information: name of roommate, floor in the building, number of bedrooms in the unit. So for example, class members can provide the names of two roommates, or a roommate, plus the number of bedrooms, etc., If the class members provide the street address/mailing address of their multi-unit house or apartment building for each year of tenancy, plus two pieces of additional information for each year, then they have an unexpedited claim because it takes longer to verify without the unit number.
Once a claim is verified for eligibility by checking Landlord's records, identity must also be verified. Class members must provide a scan of government issued ID in pdf at adisettlement.com.
Registration, Claims and Deadlines
Class members can immediately register to begin the claim process HERE. Class members will receive an e-mail confirmation of registration, then will be notified via e-mail of verification or denial of eligibility. Class members can provide a scan of government issued ID at registration or will be e-mailed a reminder. Once the Court approves the settlement class members have 120 days to make their initial registration. Class members have 60 days to respond to any requests for additional information or for the scan of the government issued ID.
PLEASE DO NOT TELEPHONE THE COURT OR THE COURT CLERK’S OFFICE TO INQUIRE ABOUT THIS SETTLEMENT OR THE CLAIM PROCESS. Go to www.adisettlement.com for further information.