AG Clark Helps Recoup $300,000 in Withheld Security Deposits;
State to Receive Proof of Repair Expenses
Attorney General Charity Clark has resolved an investigation into security deposit withholdings at five motels housing Vermonters through the State’s Transitional Housing Program (also referred to as the “motel program”). The settlement provides $300,000 in restitution for qualified former occupants of the program who stayed in motels owned by Anil Sachdev or by companies he controls, along with injunctive relief requiring proper notice in the future should deposit monies be held at some future time, and confirmation of billing and expenses for repairs deducted from deposit monies.
“Vermonters who are temporarily displaced and living without permanent shelter deserve the same consideration as any other consumer: to be treated fairly and receive adequate notice when decisions are made about their money,” said Attorney General Clark. “Every penny matters for families experiencing economic distress,” she said. “That is why we are taking this action to put this money back in Vermonters’ pockets,” said Attorney General Clark.
The Attorney General’s Office determined that 429 deposits were originally made by the Agency of Human Services to motels owned by Anil Sachdev on behalf of occupants or former occupants participating in the Transitional Housing Program. At the time of move out, some occupants received notices stating that they “may have” caused damage and requiring a waiver to contest any disputed amount. These notices were deemed unfair or deceptive by the Attorney General. Other former occupants had deposits withheld in full or in part based on records deemed problematic. For example, records that could not expressly verify whether a particular occupant caused the alleged damages, or that were submitted without adequate supporting photographic evidence, or showed inconsistencies or appeared duplicative of other similar damages forms. As a result of the settlement, former occupants who received deficient notice are entitled to receive up to the full amount of the $3,300 security deposit; all other qualified occupants will receive $500 (not to exceed $3,300 if they received a partial payment at time of exit from the program).
In addition, due to the settlement the motel owners/operators are required to provide the State with billing and invoices of more than a half-million dollars to verify deposit money withheld is actually used for repair and maintenance to improve conditions for Vermonters who still reside at the premises. In the future, if deposit monies are issued by the State on behalf of Vermont beneficiaries, the owners/operators will be required to provide clear and accurate disclosures to consumers – failure to do so would forfeit the right to withhold any portion of a deposit.
“The Transitional Housing Program was set up quickly to leverage federal dollars and place Vermonters experiencing homelessness into emergency housing in hotels on short notice, using these security deposits,” said Department for Children and Families Commissioner Chris Winters. “I want to thank our partners at the Attorney General’s office for their hard work and collaboration to ensure these clients are able to recoup the funding that was meant to assist them in a time of need.”
The five motels that are subjects of the settlement are all owned by Anil Sachdev or by companies he controls. These include: The Cortina Inn (Rutland), EconoLodge (Montpelier), Hilltop Inn (Berlin), Pine Tree Lodge (Rutland), and Quality Inn (Brattleboro).
A third-party Administrator paid for by the owners/operators of the motels will establish a website: www.vtmoteldeposit.com. The Administrator will begin sending out claims forms to qualified former occupants within a couple of weeks. Unclaimed deposits will be transferred to the State Treasurer and may be claimed in a former occupant’s name any time after the claims period closes. Former occupants with questions may contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program, at 800-649-2424.
A copy of the settlement is available here.
CONTACT: Lauren Jandl, Chief of Staff, 802-828-3171