After years of threats and other predatory actions against its tenants, companies owned by Jared Kushner are being sued by their tenants for illegal business practices in Maryland.
Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Donald Trump, spent considerable years and sums of many developing his skills as a slumlord-in-training in the ugly tradition of Trump’s father, Fred Trump. It is now beginning to backfire as he faces yet another challenge, a class action lawsuit against three of his companies for a series of alleged illegal business practices.
The lawsuit, filed on September 27 in Circuit Court in Baltimore City, Maryland, was filed by current tenants of some of Kushner’s properties in the state. The plaintiffs include:
- Westminster Management, LLC, of Florham Park, New Jersey
- JK2 Westminster, LLC of Florham Park, New Jersey
- Caroll Park Holdings, LLC, of New York, New York
- Dutch Village, LLC (c/o JK2 Westminster LLC) of College Park, Maryland
The “JK” stands for – of course—Jared Kushner.
The allegations in this case come from tenants in Kushner’s Dutch Village apartments in Northeast Baltimore and Central Park apartments in Middle River, both of Maryland. The tenants described the Kushner management entities running his complexes as applying a series of onerous and illegal fees which were designed to make more money for Kushner’s companies.
The way the fees worked, according to the complaint, is a late fee added to a tenant’s rent if the rent was not paid in full by the 5th of the month. There is also a court fee and an agent fee added on to those charges. The late fee is applied at 5% of their full rent regardless of how much of the rent was paid late. The complaint also notes that “The purported court fee is charged even though such a fee has not been awarded by a court and is often never awarded by a court,” which of course is fraud.
To make matters worse, future rent payments are also dunned with the same improper fees, adding to the tenants’ total past due payments to the management companies.
Kushner’s enterprises also apparently refuse anything but full payment for past due amounts on these fees, and instead threaten eviction and further court fees if they do not receive those payments. As Tenae Smith, one of those named as plaintiffs in the suit said, “One time I paid the rent, and they sent back my check telling me that I needed to pay an additional $150 in fees or they wouldn’t take my rent.” Another plaintiff in the case, Howard Smith, was victimized even further when the management at Carroll Park misapplied a portion of his payment to non-rent charges and then determined that his reent was late. He was charged a “legal-summons fee” and a “legal-agent fee” even though there was never any such legal fees awarded by a court. Both Howard Smith and Tenae Smith were threatened with eviction if they did not pay up everything the management companies involved claimed were due.
In commenting about the case, Andrew Freeman the attorney from Brown, Goldstein & Levy representing the plaintiffs in the case said that, “Adding small but improper fees to the rent of tenants living paycheck to paycheck, then misallocating rent payments to those fees to generate more income, is a scheme that preys on working-class tenants.” He went on to say that, “Westminster Management’s misuse of Maryland courts’ eviction proceedings to force tenants to pay the22se improper fees makes this scheme all the22 more deplorable. It must be stopped.”
The low-income housing business segment which Jared Kushner has found so lucrative in the past has come under intense scrutiny and even federal pressure in 2017. These include numerous investigations by credible investigative news sources operating both nationally and regionally. Trillions has also covered several of these issues, in its articles “What We Need to Know About Jared Kushner”, covering many aspects of Kushner’s business background, including the Maryland low-income housing that is the subject of the present suit -- from June 5, 2017, and “Kushner Companies’ Real-Estate Practices Come Under New Federal Scrutiny”, originally published in the October 2017 issue of Trillions Magazine.
Despite the legal pressure against Kushner on these issues, much of the damage has already been done and may be difficult to go back and collect, especially because of statute-of-limitations rules. It is also likely that Jared Kushner himself will use the corporate shield and claims that he did not really know what was happening, to keep him from going to jail or paying personal fines for these actions. Based on the facts of the cases as are now being disclosed from multiple sources, however, it does clear that Kushner’s companies are at the very least guilty of many gross injustices and of hurting innocent people in the process.