Formerly homeless tenant sues, class action challenges collection of unlawful attorney’s fees

Complaint contends property managers and debt collectors unlawfully seek attorney’s fees when evicting tenants, in violation of Chicago’s landlord-tenant ordinance.

Chicago – A formerly homeless tenant filed a federal class action lawsuit Friday against Draper & Kramer, Inc., a property management company, and IQ Data, Inc., a debt collector.

Plaintiff Yasmine Lamar is represented by attorneys from the Law Project at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) and the National Consumer Law Center. They argue on behalf of a class that Draper & Kramer sought unlawful attorney’s fees in connection with her eviction and that IQ Data sought to collect those fees in violation of state and federal consumer protection laws.

Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance prohibits landlords from charging attorney’s fees in connection with an eviction, yet Ms. Lamar alleges she was charged nearly $500 in fees. Ms. Lamar also alleges that the unlawful debt was reported to credit bureaus, damaging her credit.

The lawsuit alleges that this practice is widespread and could impact hundreds of tenants.

“Unlawful fees, like the ones charged by the defendants, make it that much harder for Chicago tenants to access and maintain stable housing,” said Mary Frances Charlton, a CCH attorney representing Ms. Lamar.

“Some former tenants may have paid attorney fees they don’t owe as a result of this unlawful practice,” said Charles Delbaum, a senior staff attorney also representing Ms. Lamar for the National Consumer Law Center.

Ms. Lamar described how the alleged collection practices impacted her life, saying that debt collectors “have called me from numerous numbers after being blocked, telling me that I always have excuses for not paying my debt, even though I don’t owe them attorney’s fees. This has made a very stressful time in my life much worse.”

Ms. Lamar and the class are seeking actual and punitive damages for what is alleged to be widespread violations of consumer protection laws.