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  #1  
Old 01-27-2021, 12:09 AM
moe.ron moe.ron is offline
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UW sorority hit with lawsuit, accused of violating eviction moratorium

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Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against University of Washington sorority Alpha Omicron Pi for unlawfully charging more than $6,000 in rent for a house some students could not live in due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit also includes allegations the sorority illegally charged late fees, threatened students with membership suspensions and damage to their credit if they did not pay.

Ferguson says the UW chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi violated the governorís emergency proclamation and eviction moratorium.
https://www.kiro7.com/news/local/uw-...MJDASBXI642ZI/
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Old 01-27-2021, 03:23 PM
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"Could not live in" vs. "would not live in." Definitely not enough in the story to figure out whether there's something to this. Again, hard to say, I live in a state with almost no mandatory COVID protections. Not even a mask mandate, so no idea what Washington does.
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  #3  
Old 01-27-2021, 11:10 PM
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I'll be interested to see how this turns out.
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  #4  
Old 01-28-2021, 12:13 AM
ASTalumna06 ASTalumna06 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
"Could not live in" vs. "would not live in." Definitely not enough in the story to figure out whether there's something to this. Again, hard to say, I live in a state with almost no mandatory COVID protections. Not even a mask mandate, so no idea what Washington does.
I found this... https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&sour...PfzAIFXuBtOOi_

A few items directly from the Proclamation:

Quote:
- Landlords, property owners, and property managers are prohibited from serving or enforcing, or threatening to serve or enforce, any notice requiring a resident to vacate any dwelling or parcel of land occupied as a dwelling, including but not limited to an eviction notice, notice to pay or vacate, notice of unlawful detainer, notice of termination of rental, or notice to comply
or vacate.

- Landlords, property owners, and property managers are prohibited from assessing, or threatening to assess, late fees for the non-payment or late payment of rent or other charges related to a dwelling or parcel of land occupied as a dwelling, and where such non-payment or late payment occurred on or after February 29, 2020, the date when a State of Emergency was
proclaimed in all counties in Washington State.

- Landlords, property owners, and property managers are prohibited from assessing, or threatening to assess, rent or other charges related to a dwelling or parcel of land occupied as a dwelling for any period during which the resident’s access to, or occupancy of, such dwelling was prevented as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

- Except as provided in this paragraph, landlords, property owners, and property managers are
prohibited from treating any unpaid rent or other charges related to a dwelling or parcel of land
occupied as a dwelling as an enforceable debt or obligation that is owing or collectable, where
such non-payment was as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and occurred on or after February
29, 2020, and during the State of Emergency proclaimed in all counties in Washington State.

- Landlords, property owners, and property managers are prohibited from retaliating against individuals for invoking their rights or protections under Proclamations 20-19 et seq., or any other state or federal law providing rights or protections for residential dwellings. Nothing in
this order prevents a landlord from seeking to engage in reasonable communications with tenants to explore re-payment plans in accordance with this order.
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Last edited by ASTalumna06; 01-28-2021 at 01:07 PM.
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  #5  
Old 01-28-2021, 11:54 AM
AZTheta AZTheta is offline
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This "news story" raises so many questions for me that aren't touched upon or answered at all. I am withholding judgment. Willing to bet this isn't what it seems upon a cursory reading or presentation by the local news station.
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  #6  
Old 01-28-2021, 02:40 PM
KatieKate1244 KatieKate1244 is offline
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If someone has some time on their hands, here's the complaint from the Washington AG:

https://beta.documentcloud.org/documents/20463481-ag_aoiicomplaint_12521
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Old 01-29-2021, 12:17 AM
ASTalumna06 ASTalumna06 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KatieKate1244 View Post
If someone has some time on their hands, here's the complaint from the Washington AG:

https://beta.documentcloud.org/documents/20463481-ag_aoiicomplaint_12521
A good portion of the doc is made up of Exhibits - the Governor's Proclamations, proposed budgets and capacity for members to vote on for the 2020-2021 school year, an email to a member, etc. But Section IV (Factual Allegations), Part B (AOPi's Conduct), which starts at the bottom of page 4, describes what the organization is up against.

To sum it up: AOPi's housing agreement, while disclaiming intent to create a "landlord-tenant relationship", bears many hallmarks of a traditional tenant lease.

The AOPi house has a max capacity of 80 students. In September 2020, members voted in an online poll to close the chapter house for the 2020-2021 school year (over the other options of reducing capacity to 56 members, 30 members, or 20 members). The members determined this would be the cheapest option, but it still required thousands of dollars in fees to be paid.

Following the poll, AOPi asked members to sign a "Housing Agreement Addendum" which required them to pay $6,250 as an "Adjusted Across the Board Cost for 2020-2021" which was now recharacterized from a "Housing Fee" to a "Development Fee". The Addendum noted that if members did not sign the document by September 15, 2020, AOPi would bill their accounts - through BillHighay - on a monthly basis.

Members who have not made payments have been assessed late fees, and BillHighway invoices contain language that threaten any member who does not pay with membership probation, suspension, and referral to collections.

After receiving several complaints from members, the Attorney General of Washington sent AOPi a letter on November 2, 2020, requesting that it rescind all actions threatening to assess charges and reimburse all members for payments made for any duration that members' occupancy was prevented.

AOPi continued to charge members through BillHighway and threaten membership suspension and collection referrals.

The State brings this action to stop AOPi's ongoing violations, prevent them from recurring, and remedy the harm caused to date.
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Last edited by ASTalumna06; 01-29-2021 at 12:26 AM.
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  #8  
Old 01-29-2021, 07:43 AM
PGD-GRAD PGD-GRAD is offline
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Really?? Billing members over $6,200 to pay for housing costs when they’re not living in? The virus brought on unforeseen circumstances....that’s when you call a meeting of your Housing Corporation.
In my group’s case, we limited the housing numbers to meet with university distancing guidelines and our “rainy day” fund made up the difference. We also reached out to graduate brothers and received donations to help make up the differences.
I personally can’t see bleeding your members, many of whom cannot get summer jobs or internships and whose parents may be struggling financially.

To me, this is a recipe for mass deactivations and bad blood that continues for years.
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  #9  
Old 01-29-2021, 11:39 AM
Kevin Kevin is offline
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Originally Posted by ASTalumna06 View Post
A good portion of the doc is made up of Exhibits - the Governor's Proclamations,
And that might be where the organization's best defense lies. Many State Supreme Courts have been overturning these emergency COVID rules issued unilaterally by governors. I don't know about Washington's constitution or the history behind it, but here in Oklahoma, the governor's emergency order shutting down bars after 11 PM was overruled by the courts.

As a practical matter, I kind of support the courts in these overrulings. While emergency proclamations might be needed and even enforceable in truely emergent situations where the legislature could not reasonably act, fine. Emergency proclamations made to stand for months or years without the input of the legislative branch seem beyond the pale. Particularly in this situation when it appears the group was making its own reasonable emergency efforts with the consent of the membership.

Members don't have to like everything--and that may cause them to leave. That's the risk that the organization appeared to embrace and it should be allowed to chart its own course, subject to validly enacted rules and regulations of course.
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Old 01-29-2021, 12:37 PM
ASTalumna06 ASTalumna06 is offline
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Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
And that might be where the organization's best defense lies. Many State Supreme Courts have been overturning these emergency COVID rules issued unilaterally by governors. I don't know about Washington's constitution or the history behind it, but here in Oklahoma, the governor's emergency order shutting down bars after 11 PM was overruled by the courts.

As a practical matter, I kind of support the courts in these overrulings. While emergency proclamations might be needed and even enforceable in truely emergent situations where the legislature could not reasonably act, fine. Emergency proclamations made to stand for months or years without the input of the legislative branch seem beyond the pale. Particularly in this situation when it appears the group was making its own reasonable emergency efforts with the consent of the membership.

Members don't have to like everything--and that may cause them to leave. That's the risk that the organization appeared to embrace and it should be allowed to chart its own course, subject to validly enacted rules and regulations of course.
Even outside of the Proclamations, would members not have some legitimate complaint against the organization since they were forced to pay a housing fee - for a house they couldn't live in - that they never signed on to?
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Old 01-29-2021, 12:44 PM
Kevin Kevin is offline
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Originally Posted by ASTalumna06 View Post
Even outside of the Proclamations, would members not have some legitimate complaint against the organization since they were forced to pay a housing fee - for a house they couldn't live in - that they never signed on to?
Members sign all kinds of contracts with all kinds of entities these days. From the thread, it appears they have a contract with some kind of A/R firm and maybe another contract (titled "this is definitely not a lease"[but it's kind of a lease]) with the Organization. I'm going to give a lawyer answer--I don't know, and could not possibly know without some kind of background in Washington law, and at least a copy of all of the agreements.

Many organizations charge a housing fee for non-residents. I don't know if this was that. If it was, it seems pretty steep, but the members and maybe their families signed.

And what this article is silent on is the financial pressures the organization itself is under. If the House Corp is made up of folks who have personal guarantees to the financial institution and a mortgage premised on full occupancy of the House, combined that with a sharp decline in membership and a disasterous recruitment, due to COVID, then we can start to see how and why these decisions are made.

Unfortunately, the governor's emergency declaration did not suspend commercial mortgages.
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  #12  
Old 01-29-2021, 02:23 PM
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AOPi has a national housing corporation that operates all their properties; they don't have local housing corporations any longer -- our national facility manager just confirmed this when one of my fellow facilities specialists shared this article with our facilities volunteer group. So I guess this is their national housing corp. that is involved in the "cease and desist" request, not a local HCB???

I'm remembering the broohaha when their UC-Berkeley HBC didn't want to turn over the deed and operations to their national housing corporation a few years ago.
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Old 01-29-2021, 05:11 PM
PGD-GRAD PGD-GRAD is offline
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Thank you Sciencewoman. I wasn’t aware of this when I commented above. Still...does this national board not remain aware of what is going on with its individual chapters? If so, then did THEY make (or approve) this unpopular decision?

With every campus and every chapter having very different living facilities—some maintained by the respective campus, some not—I CANNOT imagine how many people it must take to constantly we aware of and deal with each chapter’s housing issues!

And if the National Organization was either aware of or formulated these contracts...YIKES!
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Old 02-01-2021, 11:34 AM
AGDee AGDee is offline
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I would assume that dollar figure is the Parlor Fee for the year for each member. The Parlor Fee is typically what non-residents pay to support house operations in general since all members use the house in some capacity. Sometimes bylaws state that if the house is not filled, any empty bed rental fees are split equally among non-residents in the Parlor Fee. That's the kind of arrangement I'm assuming this is. It's really more like dues than rent and there wouldn't be a lease agreement.

It's not eviction since members aren't living in and being kicked out. I've been very interested in how greek orgs are managing these kinds of things with reduced capacities and houses that typically sleep 60 or more members. Will our housing corporations survive the financial hit? Or are many chapters handling it this way, through Parlor Fees?
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Old 02-01-2021, 03:42 PM
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Most people, especially our members, seem completely unaware of the costs of simply owning these houses, whether or not anyone lives there. I can't imagine the routine, fixed costs of those multi-million dollar mansions on SEC campuses for insurance, the mortgage, utilities, security, maybe still paying staff, etc.
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