Tenants from Maryland apartment complexes owned by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, sued Kushner’s real estate company Wednesday. The suit against Westminster Management, filed in Baltimore circuit court, alleges that the company has instituted an illegal system of “fee-churning” at its housing complexes that leads to endless debt and evictions for residents.
The class action lawsuit, filed by two tenants on behalf of residents from all 17 Maryland complexes managed by Westminster, outlines how the management company reportedly charges a 5 percent late fee on top of several other fees. After charging these fees, Westminster then allegedly misallocates rent payments to cover them, leading subsequent rent payments to also be classified as late because they are incomplete, creating a cycle of debt and spurring attempts by Westminster to evict residents.
“I would pay my rent, and if I was late, I would pay a 5 percent late fee, but the fees kept adding up,” plaintiff Tenae Smith, a tenant at Dutch Village apartments, said in a press release announcing the suit. “One time I paid the rent, and they sent back my check telling me that I needed to pay an additional $150 in fees or they wouldn’t take my rent. I work full-time and made regular payments, but they kept taking me to court for eviction and piling on the fees. I just want to keep my family safe and stable as the kids go back to school.”
If tenants do not pay the improper fees, Westminster will file summary eviction proceedings to collect these fees, even if the tenant is up to date on rent payments. The suit alleges that on top of their late fees, Westminster regularly charges tenants vague “legal” fees—including “agent” fees and “court” fees—that aren’t tied to any court ruling. Sometimes, they’ll charge the fees before any action has even been filed in court.
“The routine practice of charging tenants illegal fees combined with filing eviction proceedings against tenants who have paid their rent on time is predatory and destructive to hard-working Marylanders and their families,” said Chelsea Ortega, attorney at Santoni, Vocci & Ortega, LLC—one of the law firms representing the tenants. “This is yet another example of corporations profiting from deceptive policies.”
You can read the full complaint here: