A property management company owned by the family of former President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner has agreed to pay a $3,250,000 civil penalty along with restitution to settle a 2019 lawsuit brought by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh who alleged the firm charged tenants illegal fees and housed them in apartments with leaking roofs, excessive mold, rodent infestations and other issues.
The lawsuit claimed that Westminster Management, an affiliate of Kushner Companies, engaged in "unfair or deceptive trade practices" at 17 residential communities in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George's County.
"The tenants were not wealthy people," Frosh said Friday at a news conference. "Westminster used its vastly superior economic power to take advantage of them."
While Westminster continues to deny the allegations, the settlement will potentially pay restitution to tens of thousands of current and former tenants.
"Westminster is pleased to have settled this litigation with no admission of liability or wrongdoing," Peter Febo, Kushner Companies' chief operating officer, said Friday in a statement.
Frosh, a Democrat, has said the scope of violations and number of tenants affected in the case are the most severe his office has ever seen. During Friday's news conference, he held up large photos of units with living conditions he said "were often just miserable."
Several months before the lawsuit was filed, when Trump characterized the late Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings' Baltimore-based congressional district as a "rodent infested mess," a fellow Democrat, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., called the insults ironic, pointing to the allegations of neglect and disrepair at Kushner's properties.
Kushner stepped down as chief executive of Kushner Companies in 2017 when he became a senior White House adviser to Trump.
The settlement requires Westminster to return what the suit said were excessive application fees, small credit balances the company improperly retained and unpaid security deposit interest. It lays out a procedure under which current and former tenants can make claims to a special master, who can return rent to those who faced serious maintenance issues like leaks or bedbug infestations.
The agreement says nothing in it "shall be construed as an admission or concession that [Westminster] violated any law, rule, or regulation."
Asked about that at the news conference, Frosh smiled. "You don't pay $3,250,000 bucks if you're not liable, the administrative law judge found that they were liable," he said.