A class action complaint accuses property management firm Invesco of obtaining fraudulent judgments against Hispanic tenants, then using the money as part of an unspecified “wealth management scheme.”
Celia Ramirez and Antonio Ramirez, who do not speak English, filed their complaint in early June through attorney Sheryl Ring, of the Open Communities Legal Assistance Program. They say Des Plaines-based Invesco LLC, operates hundreds of rental housing units throughout Illinois, largely in Mount Prospect, in addition to its investment and wealth management operations.
The Ramirezes signed a one-year lease for a unit at Mansard Lane Apartments on Oct. 16, 2015, paying a $1,208 security deposit. In November 2017, Invesco sent a letter indicating it would not be renewing the lease. Celia and Antonio moved out in December, and in February 2018 got a letter from Invesco saying the firm would be keeping the deposit as well as requesting immediate payment of an additional $1,026, threatening a “blemish on your credit rating” if they didn’t pay.
According to the complaint, the extra money was for $845 monthly rent for both January and February, $140 for unspecified cleaning, $140 for carpet steaming, $8.40 for a smoke detector battery, $14.40 for light bulbs and “other unlawful and unconscionable charges.”
The complaint calls for two classes — one for any tenant who paid a security deposit to rent space in an Inevsco building in Mount Prospect from May 1, 2016, through the present, and a second for all Invesco tenants for whom English was not a first language and were subject to improper move-out charges. Ring said there are hundreds of members in each class, noting Invesco advertises to those who speak Spanish and has a sizable customer base of such tenants.
According to the complaint, Invesco violated Mount Prospect’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Regulations by failing to provide receipts or evidence of actual repair cost, charging for cleaning and carpet shampooing, charging for rent outside of lease terms, failing to provide notice of security deposit retention through certified mail or personal service, failing to return a deposit within 45 days or at all and failing to pay interest on a deposit.
The complaint also accused Invesco of violating the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, saying the company instructed the Ramirezes to move out “for the purpose of imposing illegal charges” in addition to similar allegations underpinning the alleged municipal infractions.
“As a matter of standard and ordinary policy,” the complaint alleged, Invesco “issues unlawful charges in writing only English to its Spanish-speaking tenants” and “does so for the purpose of coercing people who cannot read or understand those charges into paying them. … They intended for Celia and Antonio not to understand those charges.”
Using the same allegations, the complaint also asserts a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act, further alleging Invesco targets the Spanish-speaking population “motivated by animus towards persons of Hispanic descent.” Ring said Invesco would not have treated her clients the same way if they spoke English.
The complaint seeks punitive damages. Also, Ring noted all class causes are repleaded as individual complaints as an alternative, if needed.
The complaint does not detail the assertion leveled by the plaintiffs in the preliminary statement that Invesco “sells those fraudulent judgments, or uses them as part of its wealth management scheme.”