The Maryland Attorney General’s Office is digging into allegations that an affiliate of the Kushner Companies, owned by the family of Donald Trump’s son-in-law, has been neglecting some of its Baltimore-area apartments and using unscrupulous and aggressive legal tactics to collect debts from poor tenants.
CNN reported Sunday that Brian Frosh’s office is conducting an inquiry into the practices of Westminster Management, a Kushner Companies affiliate that manages 17 complexes in Maryland, including several in Baltimore, Middle River and Essex. A spokesperson for Kushner Companies confirmed the investigation to CNN, saying, “We have been working with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office to provide information in response to its request,” and that it’s complied with all state and local laws.
Asked for comment from Baltimore Fishbowl, a spokeswoman from Frosh’s office wrote in an email, “Sorry[,] we do not confirm or deny existence of investigations.”
Writing for The New York Times and ProPublica, Alec MacGillis uncovered some harrowing details of life in so-called Kushnerville this summer. According to his report, Westminster Management neglected to address vermin infestations and broken appliances for Baltimore-area tenants. When they couldn’t pay their rent or broke their leases, the company took them to court or, according to an investigation by The Baltimore Sun, frequently utilized civil arrests to squeeze money out of their pockets.
One tenant, Shawanda Hough, told MacGillis she had to move out of her Randallstown apartment because of mold that was aggravating her son’s asthma. She, like others, was sued for breaking her lease.
Kushner Companies defended its methods to reporters, saying it has a financial obligation to collect debt from tenants and that it complies fully with state and local laws.
Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to President Trump who’s also married to his daughter Ivanka, stepped down as CEO of the company in January. Even so, lawmakers have kept their eyes on the firm with his name on it.
A half-dozen Maryland congressmen in August sent a letter to the Kushner Companies asking for documentation related to the allegations from the ProPublica/NYT and Sun investigations, and to the company’s acceptance of federal Housing and Urban Development vouchers from low-income tenants. Firms that accept such vouchers are required to maintain certain standards of quality in the dwellings, the lawmakers wrote; not doing so could constitute a violation of federal law.
The company defended its practices in response, but didn’t provide the requested documentation. According to a subsequent letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings to his Republican House Oversight Committee colleague Trey Gowdy, Kushner Companies refused to provide information in six different cases when his staff reached out. Cummings has asked Gowdy to help apply pressure to the real estate firm.
CNN reports that the existence of Frosh’s investigation alone doesn’t mean charges will be filed.