A Maryland judge ruled that an apartment company co-owned by former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner violated consumer protection laws by charging improper fees to tenants, engaging in debt collection without the requisite licenses, and misstating the condition of its apartments, The Baltimore Sun reported Thursday evening.
Administrative Law Judge Emily Daneker issued a 252-page decision classifying violations by the company JK2 and its successor Westminster Management as “widespread and numerous.”
Jared and his brother Joshua Kushner each own a 50-percent stake in JK2, per legal filings obtained by The Sun.
The case stems from a lawsuit filed in 2019 by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. Frosh opened an investigation into the company and its partners after tenants filed a lawsuit alleging they were being charged inappropriate fees and ProPublica and The Baltimore Sun reported on rental practices that experts said were unlawful.
While the Kushners had repeatedly contended that the litigation brought by Frosh, a Democrat, was motivated by political animus, Judge Daneker said there was no evidence to corroborate that claim.
“The evidence does not establish differential treatment or selective enforcement based on any politically motivated basis, as opposed to motivation to protect Maryland consumers,” she wrote, according to the report.
In fact, The Sun reported that Daneker “found Westminster charged illegal fees thousands of times” by forcing applications to pay as much as twice the legal limit to process their applications and charging for non-existent fees.
“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,” the report stated. “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 companies also charged tenants at two Baltimore apartment complexes $80 for “pass-through fees” that were supposed to be put towards 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.”
But Judge Daneker did not conclude that all of the allegations against the companies had merit, finding that Frosh “did not establish that the companies violated the law by misrepresenting their ability to provide maintenance services” and also had did not engage in some of unlawful conduct throughout the whole period initially alleged.
The Kushner Cos. general counsel, Christopher W. Smith, told The Sun that the ruling actually bolstered its assertion that Frosh’s allegations were baseless.
“Kushner respects the thoughtful depth of the Judge’s decision, which vindicates Westminster with respect to many of the Attorney General’s overreaching allegations,” Smith said in a statement.
[image via MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images]
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