Judge Denies MTD in FDCPA Class Action Over Eviction

A District Court judge in Colorado has denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss in a class-action Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, ruling that a document it sends to individuals who are being evicted by their landlords was sufficiently alleged by the plaintiff to be a deceptive communication claim and that the actions of the defendant were intentional.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Warden v. Tschetter Sulzer can be accessed by clicking here.

The defendant filed an eviction lawsuit and collection proceeding against the plaintiff on behalf of the landlord who owned the building. The defendant sent an email to the plaintiff that included a “Stipulation and Advisement.” The document informed the plaintiff that she had 10 days to work out the situation with her landlord or move out. The document also informed the plaintiff she could ask for more time to vacate the property, but that it was up to the landlord to grant that request. Finally, the document said that if the plaintiff moved out before the agreed-upon move-out date in the document, it triggered the defendant’s “obligation to vacate any possession judgment and dismiss your case. Thus, by signing and complying with a Stipulation, you are guaranteed not to have an eviction judgment (judgment for possession) on record with the Court.”

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the document was “used to leverage payment of both unpaid rent and additional amounts” and to “mislead her into believing she could stay within her rental residence for additional time, and that the money claim against her would be dismissed upon vacating the unit.”

The defendant attempted to argue that the FDCPA did not apply in this situation and that the plaintiff failed to state a claim, but Judge Charlotte N. Sweeney of the District Court for the District of Colorado did not see it that way.

The defendant advertises itself as a landlord advocacy firm, and the defendant argued that the document in question did not involve an obligation to pay money, but Judge Sweeney noted that the document advised the plaintiff that she had “10-Days to either work it out with your landlord or move-out . . . working it out almost always means paying.”

“Plaintiff alleges that the Stipulation and Advisement led her to believe that if she vacated the property by February 11, 2021, Defendant would vacate the judgment for possession and dismiss the eviction collection lawsuit without prejudice,” Judge Sweeney wrote. “Plaintiff complied with the terms of the Stipulation and vacated the property on February 4, 2021. Defendant, however, did not move to vacate the judgment and dismiss the case without prejudice until February 10, 2022. Accordingly, dismissal for failure to state a claim is inappropriate.”

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