Tenants represented by Andy Freeman, Anisha Queen, and Jamie Strawbridge won a Supreme Court of Maryland victory prohibiting landlords from charging excessive late fees.

A lawsuit on behalf of former Baltimore-area tenants against apartment management company Westminster Management established important protections against excessive late fees. The five tenants in this case are represented by BGL lawyers Andrew Freeman, Anisha Queen, and Jamie Strawbridge, along with co-counsel C. Matthew Hill of the Public Justice Center and Chelsea Ortega and Jane Santoni of Santoni, Vocci & Ortega, LLC. The case was covered by both The Baltimore Banner and The Baltimore Sun.

“These were working-class tenants who faced the first of the month, and their choice was to feed their kids or pay their rent on time; in that circumstance Maryland allows a landlord to charge a 5% late fee, but no more,” Andy said to The Baltimore Sun. “Westminster Management, as well as some other big landlords around the state, were trying to turn their tenants’ hardship into a profit center.”

The management company, co-owned by Jared Kushner, broke a state law that caps penalties for the late payment of rent at 5% of the monthly amount. In addition to the 5% late fee, Westminster was charging tenants “agent fees,” “summons fees,” and “court fees” that had not been awarded by any court.

Additionally, Westminster designated those fees as “rent” in order to misapply tenants’ payments first to the illegal fees and non-rent charges, so it could claim that rent was still due and obtain a faster eviction. Chief Justice Matthew J. Fader wrote for the court that rent means “the fixed, periodic payments a tenant is obligated to pay for use or occupancy of the leased premise” and rejected an argument from Westminster that the term “encompasses whatever a written lease says it encompasses.”

The Supreme Court ruled that Westminster could not charge any additional fees after the 5% late fee, and that it could not define “rent” as all charges due in order to allocate monthly payments to other charges and claim that tenants are behind on their rent.

“It’s an important victory not just for Westminster’s tenants but for tenants all across the state,” Andy said to The Baltimore Banner. “Rent means rent. It’s what most of us think rent means.”

In a statement, Tenae Smith, one of the tenant-plaintiffs, said the ruling will allow people “a fair chance to catch up if they fall behind” and result in “more housing stability and support for families.”

The lawsuit will now return to the Baltimore Circuit Court to decide whether it should proceed as a class action lawsuit for all tenants who were subjected to improper fees since September 2014.

Learn more about the lawsuit here.


A talented trial lawyer, Andy is well known and highly regarded for obtaining justice by mastering the relevant law and getting to know his clients, their problems, and the evidence in their cases. Other lawyers bring him cases that present complicated combinations of law and facts or that require making new law. Andy has been a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers since 2014. His many accolades include being recognized consistently by Chambers USALawdragon, and Super Lawyers. Andy was also chosen by his peers as Maryland Trial Lawyer of the Year. Learn more about Andy here.


Anisha Queen joined Brown Goldstein & Levy in January 2019. Since joining the firm, she has represented clients in a wide array of civil matters. She has experience representing clients in cases involving employment law, housing discrimination, disability rights, civil rights, wrongful convictions, Title IX, and contract disputes. She has also represented clients in criminal matters, including those involving second-degree assault, weapons possession, and wire fraud. Learn more about Anisha here.


Jamie Strawbridge has significant experience representing tenants in housing-related cases. He has represented plaintiffs in lawsuits alleging sub-standard living conditions and housing discrimination; defended tenants in eviction proceedings; and fought to preserve individuals’ housing-related benefits in administrative actions. Learn more about Jamie here.

Founded in 1982, Brown, Goldstein & Levy is a law firm based in Baltimore, Maryland, with an office in Washington, D.C. The firm is nationally recognized in a wide variety of practice areas, including complex civil and commercial litigation, civil rights, health care, family law, and criminal defense. Above all else, Brown, Goldstein & Levy is a client-centered law firm that brings decades of experience and passionate, effective advocacy to your fight for justice.