Jared Kushner is being sued in Maryland over dozens of substandard, rat-infested apartment units in Baltimore. It’s the same city father-in-law Donald Trump called “rat and rodent infested” in a slur of late Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh filed the lawsuit against a property management company that oversees Kushner-owned properties in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County.
The suit charges the firm, Westminster Management LLC, with “unfair or deceptive trade practices” for abusing tenants housed in poorly maintained, rundown apartments.
The Kushner family business owns 17 residential communities in Maryland and others in Virginia, according to published reports.
The firm, an affiliate of Kushner Cos. “victimized consumers, many of whom are financially vulnerable,” the lawsuit claims.
They where directed to units “infested by rodents and vermin, plagued with water leaks… and, at times, lacking in basic utilities.”
Frosh said the conditions were the severest his office has ever seen. Before the lawsuit was filed, Westminster rejected Frosh’s settlement offer.
Damages could be in the millions of dollars, Frosh told The Washington Post.
Kushner Cos. chief executive Laurent Morali took a page out of Trump’s playbook and accused Frosh of political grandstanding.
“We refuse to be extorted by an ambitious Attorney General who clearly cares more about scoring political points than fighting real crime and improving the lives of the people of Maryland,” Morali said.
Frosh has joined in with other states in a number of lawsuits challenging Trump administration policies.
In one high-profile case, a lawsuit filed with the District of Columbia accuses Trump of violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.
After initially being dismissed by a three-judge panel, the lawsuit was revived by a federal appeals court earlier this month. The suit claims Trump is illegally profiting from foreign and state government visitors at his downtown Washington hotel.
Oral arguments before a full panel of judges has been set for Dec. 12.
Kushner hasn’t been directly involved with the company since becoming a senior White House adviser in 2017, following Trump’s election as president.
Frosh asserts that Westminster and other Kushner related holdings have racked up hundreds of thousands of violations of Maryland’s Consumer Protection Act. “This does not have to do with politics. It has to do with their treatment of their tenants.”
In 2017 alone, Kushner Cos. properties were cited for more than 200 code violations, according to Baltimore County housing officials.
Trump has been engaged in a long-running feud with Cummings, whose Congressional District includes Baltimore City’s wealthy suburbs as well as close-in and inner city neighborhoods.
In July, Trump told reporters outside of the White House that Baltimore residents were “living in hell.” He also tweeted that Baltimore had the “worst” numbers “on crime and the economy.”
He called Cummings’s congressional district, which encompasses the Kushner properties, a “rodent infested mess.”
Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. was prompted to note the irony of Trump’s slurs, given the horrendous state of Kusher’s apartment complexes.
At the time, Olszewski condemned Trump’s comments as “an attack on basic decency.”
“It is certainly ironic that the president’s own son-in-law was complicit in contributing to some of the neglect that the president purports to be so concerned about,” Olszewski said.
Tenants also complained that residents faced “aggressive debt-collection tactics” and summary evictions.
Kushner-affiliated management companies sought the arrest of more than 100 former tenants for failing to appear in court to face allegations of unpaid debt, a 2017 investigation by The Baltimore Sun discovered.
Critics say Kusher was have people jailed for being poor, hindering their ability to pay the back rent.
This past February, The Wall Street Journal reported that Kusher Cos. expanded its holdings by 6,000 apartments in Maryland and Virginia.
The company owns about 22,000 apartment units and plans to grow that number, according to The Journal.