On August 27th, in response to Sage Management’s seemingly endless barrage of predatory practices that result in 150-250 non-payment complaints every month, tenants held a rally in front of rent court. Sage Management tenants and supporters from United Workers, Housing Our Neighbors, Word on the Street and more drew the attention of passersby and made Sage a household name. In the courtroom, four Right to Housing Alliance members stood up to Sage Management (far more members had hearings today, but most are unable to continue taking time out of work to attend hearings month after month), and all four won! In all four hearings, Judge Devy P. Russell, in a drastic shift from the status-quo of a very landlord-friendly court culture, ruled that Sage could not apply tenants’ rent payments to prior balances.
Unfortunately, Sage Management did receive 238 default judgements against their tenants that day. Each of those tenants will receive additional fees, a court cost of $21, a 5% late fee (averaging about $35) and an “agent fee” of $11. This totals $67 in additional charges on tenants who are already struggling to pay rent, and who are not receiving the benefit of a responsive property manager to make repairs and remedy safety issues. This round of default judgements nets Sage Management approximately $11,000 in late fees and “agent fees” and that’s just for the month of August. Do this every month out of the year and that’s quite a profitable business model.
When we get Sage Management in court, we win, but Mr. Horwitz insists that his practices don’t need to change. We’ll continue to hold them accountable in and out of court until they agree to treat their tenants with peace and dignity and until they change their practices and respect their tenants’ human right to safe, adequate, affordable housing.
Detrese insisted on paying her rent in court because Sage Management refuses to issue a receipt to her showing that her rent payments are being applied to the current month’s balance instead of a past-due balance that Sage refused to explain to her. With representation by Zafar Shah, housing attorney for the Public Justice Center, her case was dismissed. Later, in the hallway, Sage Management owner Gil Horwitz made an offer to credit Detrese the amount of her remaining balance if she pays her September rent on time. He made it clear that this offer does not apply to any other tenants, and may not be used as a precedent, and gave Detrese seven days to make a decision.
Whitney, represented by Zafar Shah, housing attorney for Public Justice Center, had his case dismissed in mere seconds by providing proof that he had paid his rent on time. Mr. Horowitz claimed that Whitney had missed his monthly rent payment in July of 2012, and that all subsequent rent payments were applied to the month prior to the payment. Judge Russell dismissed the case, stating that rent payment can not be applied to previous balances. Sage Management continues to file non-payment complaints against Whitney each month, despite Whitney’s ability to prove on-time payment. Last month, Sage Management received a default judgement for a non-payment complaint against Whitney, which was vacated after Public Justice Center filed a motion on his behalf.
Shanice was represented by Public Justice Center attorney, Matt Hill, and her case was dismissed. Her rent had been paid on time, and Sage Management was attempting to rack up more court fees and late fees. Additionally, Shanice received no notice of the court hearing either by mail or affixed to her door, and was only notified when Right to Housing Alliance contacted her.
Teresha was taken to court this month for non-payment of rent, despite having paid rent on time. With representation from Ronnie Reno of the Public Justice Center, Teresha’s case was dismissed, as the judge ruled that Sage cannot apply rent payments to prior balances.