Maryland Judge Emily Daneker didn’t use the term “slumlord” in her ruling, but Jared Kushner’s behavior as owner and manager of several Baltimore area rental properties certainly seems to deserve the label. The administrative law judge has ruled that Westminster Management and the company JK2, owned equally by Kushner and his brother, Joshua, violated Maryland’s consumer protection laws by charging tenants improper fees, misrepresenting the condition of rental units and collecting debts without the required licenses.
In 2019 Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh sued Westminster and the 25 companies that owned apartment communities that it managed alleging that it took advantage of financially vulnerable consumers. The judge last week found that violations by Kushner’s company were “widespread and numerous.” She found that Westminster charged illegal fees thousands of times.
Maryland law only allows landlords to charge up to $25 to process an application. But the properties in the case charged between $35 to $50 to at least 15,289 consumers, according to Daneker’s decision. Westminster and JK2 also charged tenants $12 “agent fees” related to court filings, for costs the companies had not actually incurred. The companies did this more than 28,000 times, with the wrongly charged agent fees totaling more than $332,000, the judge wrote.
Donald Trump’s son-in-law and former adviser also charged tenants at Dutch Village and Pleasantview in Baltimore $80 “as a pass-through fee for court costs, even though the amount incurred was only $50.” “This occurred a total of 2,642 times over the course of more than two years,” Daneker wrote. “These circumstances do not support a finding that this was the result of isolated or inadvertent mistakes.”
The judge also found that tenants often were misled about the conditions of the apartments before they moved in. They were only shown model units and not allowed to see their actual apartment until move-in day.
One such case involved a man who rented a unit at the Charlesmont apartments in Dundalk in 2014. He was shown a unit that looked like it had just been remodeled, but the unit he got “had dirty carpet and smelled like a litter box.” His kitchen ceiling collapsed the night he moved in. Management never made repairs despite repeated complaints, so the man bought supplies at Home Depot and fixed the ceiling himself. His employer paid for the carpet to be cleaned.
Another woman testified that in 2013, she was shown a nice, newly painted and updated unit at the Carriage Hill apartments in Randallstown. But when she moved in, she found mouse holes in the apartment they gave her. The rodents were an ongoing problem, with the woman finding droppings on her stove and counter, and hearing mice in the walls.