Motel program occupants to see return of deposit money

Attorney General’s Office recoups $300,000 in withheld security deposits for more than 300 occupants

Attorney General Charity Clark has resolved an investigation into security deposit withholdings at five motels - including the Quality Inn in Brattleboro - housing Vermonters through the state's Transitional Housing Program (known informally 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 advance requirements that he give proper notice should deposit monies be held and confirmation of billing and expenses for repairs deducted from such funds.

"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," Clark said in a Jan. 24 news release.

"Every penny matters for families experiencing economic distress," she added. "That is why we are taking this action to put this money back in Vermonters' pockets."

The Attorney General's Office determined that 429 deposits were originally made by the Agency of Human Services to motels owned or controlled by Sachdev.

These funds were 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, that were submitted without adequate supporting photographic evidence, or that showed inconsistencies or "appeared duplicative of other similar damages forms," the news release said.

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. (The amount to be paid will not exceed $3,300 for those who 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 $500,000 to verify that 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, the AGO said. Failure to do so would forfeit the right to withhold any portion of a deposit.

The Transitional Housing Program was set up in an emergency response to the pandemic in early 2020. It was created 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.

The other motels that are subjects of the settlement include Comfort Inn (Rutland), EconoLodge (Montpelier), Hilltop Inn (Berlin), and Pine Tree Lodge (Rutland).

A third-party administrator paid for by the owners/operators of the motels will establish a website: The administrator will begin sending claims forms to qualified former occupants within "a couple of weeks," the news release said.

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.

This News item was submitted to The Commons.

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