The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office has sued a State College area landlord for allegedly levying illegal charges on tenants and providing residences with unlivable conditions.
The Bureau of Consumer Protection “has received myriad complaints” about “unfair and deceptive” practices by Rodney Hendricks, who manages more than 100 properties in State College and surrounding areas, Deputy Attorney General Benjamin Sirolly wrote in the lawsuit filed on Monday in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas.
Hendricks allegedly violated Pennsylvania’s Consumer Protection Law by charging tenants hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for normal wear and tear and maintenance in order “to retain all or significant portions of tenants’ security deposits, effectively offloading to tenants the cost of doing business or profiting from the unlawful retention of tenants’ security deposits,” Sirolly wrote.
According to the form lease that Hendricks provided tenants and per state law, the security deposits were only to be used for actual damages or unpaid rent.
In 2016, Hendricks reached a settlement with the attorney general’s office for allegedly charged tenants with improper administrative fees and fines that were deducted from their security deposits. As part of the settlement, Hendricks agreed to stop the practices, pay restitution and fines and be bound by an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance.
Despite that, Sirolly wrote, the Bureau of Consumer Protection continued to received complaints detailing “acts of deceptive conduct and misrepresentation,” including some of the practices Hendricks agreed to cease in 2016.
Complaints alleged that Hendricks deducted costs for cleaning and maintenance that did not constitute actual damages by the tenants, while the attorney general’s office also believes charges were “unreasonably high” and did not reflect actual costs to remedy damage or perform cleaning.
Former tenants complained that they were charged for cleaning such as carpet steaming that had already been done, for light cleaning and normal wear and tear like light bulb replacement and for pre-existing damage to the residences that they reported upon move-in .
One tenant alleged a residence was infested with fleas upon move-in and they had to pay for extermination and to replace carpeting with laminate flooring.
Others complained about a long list of issues they said Hendricks did not address in a timely manner, charged them to fix or did not fix at all.
Tenant complaints included residences that were dirty upon move-in, a heating system that was broken for months, no electricity in a bedroom, sewage backing up into a shower, a flooding sewer pipe, broken toilet and appliances, collapsing drywall ceiling due to roof leaks, broken windows, failure to remedy a pre-existing “rodent issue,” and a house infiltrated by squirrels and a bat.
Hendricks allegedly delivered properties in a different condition than they were offered or advertised.
The 137-page lawsuit also alleges that Hendricks and his employees entered residences without the required prior notice and authorization, sometimes without even knocking.
The five-count complaint asks for Hendricks to be ordered to comply with the Consumer Protection Law and Landlord Tenant Law, pay restitution, fines and court costs.
Sirolly wrote that the attorney general’s office believes there may be additional tenants who have not filed complaints and who have been harmed by Hendricks’s practices.