office of the Maryland
attorney general is investigating the management practices at the many
apartment complexes in the state that are owned and overseen by Kushner
Companies, the family company of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law
adviser, Jared Kushner.
spokesman for Kushner Companies confirmed that the office of
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat elected in 2014, has
contact with the New York-based company.
been working with the Maryland Attorney General’s
Office to provide information in response to its request,” the company
a statement issued by the spokesman. The statement concluded: “We are
compliance with all state and local laws.”
spokeswoman for the attorney general, Christine Tobar,
declined to discuss the matter. “We don’t confirm or deny
follows a May 23 article jointly published by ProPublica and The
New York Times Magazine that
detailed the Kushner Companies’ highly litigious dealings with the
rent apartments in the 15 complexes it owns in the Baltimore area.
which shares ownership in some of the complexes with other partners but
them all through its Westminster Management subsidiary, has brought
cases against current and former tenants in local courts.
the cases involved former tenants who had moved out of
the complexes several years before Kushner Companies bought them. The
purchases began with the acquisition of 5,500 units in the Baltimore
part of a $371 million deal in 2012, with several thousand more units
the next few years.
the cases involved tenants who possessed clear evidence
that they did not owe the money the company claimed, yet were pursued
for several years, with late fees and court fees piling on top of the
article also described shoddy conditions that many tenants
contend with at the complexes, including mice, leaky roofs and mold.
response to questions for the May 23 article, the Kushner
Companies’ chief financial officer said that its approach when it came
pursuing tenants conformed with industry practices and that it had a
duty to its ownership partners to collect all money owed by current and
Kushner, who was instrumental in the purchases, stepped
down as the company’s CEO when his father-in-law won the presidency.
has become one of Trump’s most senior advisers in the White House.
by The Baltimore Sun in August
found Kushner Companies went to even greater lengths in some cases:
corporate entities affiliated with the company sought the civil arrest
former tenants at the company’s 17 Maryland complexes (it also owns two
Washington suburbs) for failing to appear in court to face allegations
unpaid rent. Twenty former tenants were briefly detained, the
attorney general’s investigation, which was first
reported by CNN Money, is not the
first fallout from the revelations about the complexes.
lawyers from two Baltimore-area law firms and a legal advocacy
a class-action lawsuit against
Kushner Companies on behalf of tenants at the complexes. The lawsuit
that Westminster Management and related corporate entities have been
inflating payments owed by tenants by charging them late fees that are
unfounded and court fees that are not actually approved by any court.
the lawsuit charges, sets in motion a vicious cycle in
which tenants’ rent payments are partly assessed toward the fees
instead of the
actual rent owed, thus deeming the tenant once again “late” on his or
payment, leading to yet more late fees and court fees.
matters worse, the 5 percent late fees are frequently
assessed on principal that includes allegedly unpaid fees, not just the
effect, the suit alleges, is that the company’s late
fees are exceeding Maryland’s statutory limits. Tenants are pressured
to pay the
snowballing bills with immediate threat of eviction, the suit alleges.
spokesman for Kushner Companies declined to comment on the
lawsuit when it was filed. “We will respond to the complaint at the
time in the legal proceedings,” he said.
news reports on the complexes also prompted Maryland’s two U.S.
four of its House members, all Democrats, to send
a letter to Kushner Companies in
August asking for some of the firm’s records.
noted that the complexes rely heavily on tenants with Housing Choice
8) rental vouchers, and thus must comply with a host of Department of
and Urban Development regulations.
demanded, among other things, all notifications from HUD, public
authorities, inspection companies or local jurisdictions identifying
the complexes in the past three years; all complaints from residents
maintenance and repair issues over the past three years; and
regarding the role played by Jared Kushner.
has not produced the records requested by the lawmakers, which led one
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Government
Reform Committee, to seek
assistance two weeks ago from
the committee chairman, Republican Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.
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