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Maryland announces settlement with company owned by Kushner

By BRIAN WITTE Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A property management company owned by the family of former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has agreed to pay a $3.25 million civil penalty and restitution to settle a 2019 lawsuit in Maryland over allegations of overcharging tenants illegal fees and failing to maintain properties, Attorney General Brian Frosh announced Friday.

Frosh announced that his office’s Division of Consumer Protection has reached a settlement with Westminster Management, LLC, a New Jersey-based corporation, and the 25 companies that own or own 17 residential communities managed by Westminster Management in Maryland.

The settlement addresses charges that Westminster and the owners violated the Consumer Protection Act.

The attorney general said in a news release that the properties in question contained more than 9,000 rental units in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County. The settlement will potentially pay restitution to thousands of current and former residents of the communities, the attorney general’s office said.

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The settlement, contained in a final order issued by the Division of Consumer Protection, requires Westminster to pay back excessive application fees to consumers; improper agent fees, writing fees, and court costs collected in summary removal actions; small credit balances that were improperly withheld by the company; and interest on the security deposit that was not paid to tenants who vacated.

“Tenants at Westminster properties suffered from mold, leaks, flooding and infestations of rodents, cockroaches and bedbugs,” said Frosh, a Democrat. “Management hid these conditions only to reveal them to their tenants after they locked themselves into long-term leases. Westminster knew the state of his properties and charged tenants illegal fees to live in these miserable conditions. Westminster’s conduct was inconceivable.”

Westminster does not admit wrongdoing under the agreement.

“Westminster is pleased to have resolved this litigation with no admission of liability or wrongdoing,” said Peter Febo, chief operating officer of Kushner Cos., in a statement. “We look forward to moving past this issue so we can focus on our ever-expanding real estate portfolio.”

Kushner resigned as CEO of Kushner Cos. in 2017, when he became a senior White House adviser to President Donald Trump.

To deal with the charges, the agreement provides for a claims procedure in which current and former tenants of properties managed by Westminster can file claims with a special master, who can return rent to consumers if, during their tenancies, they faced Serious maintenance issues that affected your use and enjoyment of your apartments, including leaks or flooding; infestations of rodents, cockroaches or bedbugs; or lack of electricity, water, hot water, heating or air conditioning.

The Kushner family’s real estate company owns thousands of apartments and townhouses in the Baltimore area. Some have been criticized for the same kind of blight and neglect that Trump accused local leaders of failing to address, when he referred to Baltimore as a “rat and rodent infested mess” in 2019.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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