A Nevada-based property management group will pay almost $350,000 to resolve a lawsuit filed in April by Attorney General Bob Ferguson over its violation of Washington’s emergency eviction moratorium.
The firm, JRK Residential Group, Inc., will pay almost $309,000 directly to tenants in the form of refunds, payments and rent forgiveness. The AG’s lawsuit was the first filed to enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency proclamations.
The Governor, on March 18, issued a proclamation establishing a temporary moratorium on evictions for an inability to pay rent. The proclamation prohibits landlords from issuing Notices to Pay or Vacate during the proclamation’s effective period.
JRK Residential, a for-profit real estate investment firm and property management company, manages property in 20 states and says its portfolio represents “approximately $6 billion in investment capital.”
The Attorney General’s lawsuit, filed April 20, said JRK Residential violated Inslee’s order by issuing Notices to Pay or Vacate to at least 14 tenants at The Boulders at Puget Sound, a multi-building Tacoma apartment complex with over 700 units. The AG suit asserted that the Nevada-based firm sent unfair deceptive and harassing communications to approximately 1,400 Washington state tenants.
In a consent decree filed Wednesday in Pierce County Superior Court, JRK is required to:
— Forgive April 2020 rent or offer refunds to those who paid, to 14 tenants at the Bounders at Puget Sound complex who received 14 day notices to Pay or Vacate in violation of Inslee’s order;
— Once the consent decree is approved by the court, JRK ill also be required to pay $246,000 to 1,441 tenants who received unfair, deceptive or harassing communications from JRK;
— Waive or refund fees for tenants who need or choose to move out before their lease is up while Inslee’s proclamation remains in effect.
JRK Residential will be prohibited from issuing 14-day notices beyond expiration of the Governor’s order, at least through July 31. The company will also cover $50,000 in costs and attorney fees to the AG’s office.
JRK is also prohibited from issuing harassing communications about rent payment, contacting a tenant’s employer, or unfairly seeking to cause a tenant to use federal stimulus payments or unemployment benefits to pay rent over other essential needs.
“This large, sophisticated company knew the law, and still threatened to evict tenants: This resolution makes those tenants whole,” Ferguson said in a statement. “If you believe your property management company or landlord is violating the eviction moratorium, file a complaint with my office.”
The suit against JRK Residential was pursued by the Wing Luke Civil Rights division of the AG’s office, named after a onetime Seattle City Council member.
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