Tenants allege Trump’s son-in-law is a Baltimore “slumlord,” and that’s not even the worst of it
Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law, sues his Baltimore tenants for thousands of dollars in bogus debts, on which he also gets judgments allowing him to garnish their wages and drain their bank accounts.
This according to Pro Publica’s Alec MacGillis, who reports in a story for this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine that Kushner quietly bought-up thousands of modest and run-down apartment units in Essex and other Baltimore suburbs, whose tenants complain of poor maintenance, harsh rent collection techniques, and relentless pursuit of old and sometimes dubious debts generated after tenants moved out.
MacGillis leads off with Kamiia Warren, who moved out of Cove Village in Essex years ago to get away from a crazy neighbor. She had permission to do so from the apartment’s managers, yet Kushner’s company sued her years later for breaking the lease, winning more than $3,000 plus fees and expenses: almost $5,000 total by 2014.
At one point in the story, a private investigator looking into Westminster Management, Kusher’s property management company says, “they’re nothing but slumlords.” MacGillis notes the P.I. is a Trump supporter and had no idea of the connection between Trump’s son-in-law and Westminster.
MacGillis finds hundreds of cases, and the story profiles several other tenants with similar experiences. A spokesperson for Kushner’s company tells MacGillis that it owes a fiduciary duty to its investors to try to collect all outstanding debts. The story does not explain how or why it’s legal for the landlord to effectively generate the debts out of thin air, or why the District Court judges routinely uphold them. He tries to talk to Kushner’s collection lawyer, Jeffrey Tapper.
“In the cases that Tapper has brought to court on behalf of JK2 Westminster and individual Kushner-controlled companies, there is a clear pattern of Kushner Companies’ pursuing tenants over virtually any unpaid rent or broken lease—even in the numerous cases where the facts appear to be on the tenants’ side,” MacGillis writes.
Tapper blows him off.
Aside from the presidential connection, the story reads much like Doug Donovan and Jean Marbella’s Baltimore Sun series a few weeks ago on Baltimore City’s rent court, where the deck is said to be stacked pretty high against tenants.
Jared Kushner’s Beleaguered Tenants
The idea of working with little pay and no fanfare to make people’s struggles less onerous is a sucker’s game for Mr. Trump and his cohort. When members of Team Trump play, they are never the sucker. They exploit foreclosures, promote legislation to benefit themselves, stiff workers and contractors and create multimillion-dollar scams.
For the past few years, Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, who is now in charge of vital parts of the president’s agenda, has been a landlord of often decrepit low-income housing. His subordinates aggressively sue tenants for the smallest infractions despite ignoring maintenance needs, and they pursue judgments even when the tenant seems to have been in the right. While landlord-tenant disputes are hardly new, tenants in Kushner complexes have complained that the company used legal action to hound them on thin or specious grounds.
Since 2011, subsidiaries of Kushner Companies, the family real estate business Mr. Kushner ran until January, bought 20,000 apartments in 34 complexes in Maryland, Ohio and New Jersey. An investigation for The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica, by Alec MacGillis, found that one major Kushner subsidiary, JK2 Westminster, had 548 cases on file against Maryland tenants. Hundreds of other cases have been filed there by individual Kushner apartment complexes.
Community organizers could have helped Kushner tenants like Kamiia Warren of suburban Baltimore, who was sued for moving out of her apartment without giving two months’ notice despite having done so. Mr. Kushner’s company won an almost $5,000 judgment anyway, and garnished her wages as a home health worker, and her bank account.
The Times investigation quotes the Kushner Companies’ chief financial officer, Jennifer McLean, as saying that the company has a “fiduciary obligation” to collect as much revenue as possible. Mr. MacGillis adds: “One way to make sure that tenants are paying their rent and to keep them from breaking leases early … is to instill a sense of fear about violating a lease.”