Javanni Munguia-Brown v. Equity Residential

After an 8 day bench trial in June 2023 before the Honorable Jeffrey White of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Goldstein Borgen Dardarian & Ho, along with co-counsel from Nicholas & Tomasevic, LLP, and Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, recently secured a landmark victory in their decade long battle against Equity Residential challenging the late fee that Equity charges its California tenants for late payment of rent.  On April 8, 2024, the Court ruled that Equity’s late fee of 5% of monthly rent, minimum of $50 “null and void” under California Civil Code section 1671(d), and held that “by imposing a late fee that is void under Section 1671(d), Equity has engaged in an unlawful business practice” in violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law, California Business & Professions Code section 17200.  The Court also credited the testimony of Plaintiffs’ experts David Breshears and Andrew Schwarz, found Equity’s expert Mark Hosfield’s work to be “unscientific” and “unreliable,” and ordered further proceedings to decide how much Equity will owe the class in restitution of unlawfully collected late fees and how much of a late fee Equity can charge its California tenants for late rent payments going forward, using Plaintiffs’ experts’ methodologies.

The court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law come after years of hard fought litigation, in which the court certified a class of nearly 190,000 of Equity’s California tenants who have been charged a late fee for late payment of rent at any time from September 3, 2010 to the present.  The next phase of the case will determine how much Equity will have to pay back to the class for the excessive late rent fees that Equity collected from them, and how much Equity can charge its California tenants in late rent fees in the future.

Case Documents