Kushner Companies Loses a Key Motion in Class Action Filed by Baltimore Tenants

A state judge declined to dismiss the suit filed by apartment residents who claim they were charged inappropriate and excessive fees.

A Maryland judge is allowing a class action lawsuit against Jared Kushner’s family real estate company to proceed, in a ruling that denies most of the company’s arguments to dismiss the case over its treatment of tenants at large apartment complexes in the Baltimore area.

The lawsuit, filed last September in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, alleges that the Kushner Companies’ real estate management arm, Westminster Management, has been improperly inflating payments owed by tenants by charging them late fees that are often baseless and in excess of state laws limiting them to 5 percent of rent. The suit also claims that Westminster was making some tenants pay so-called court fees that are not actually approved by any court. The suit alleges that the late fees and court fees set in motion a vicious churning cycle in which rent payments are partly put toward the fees instead of the actual rent owed, thus deeming the tenant once again “late” on his or her rent payment, leading to yet more late fees and court fees. Tenants are pressured to pay the snowballing bills with immediate threat of eviction, the suit alleges.

Andy Freeman, one of the attorneys representing the tenants said, “We are very pleased that Judge Williams recognized that plaintiffs have a claim for a violation of Maryland’s laws that protect tenants from excessive late fees and forbid landlords from threatening tenants with eviction for those not paying those fees, and that he refused to dismiss our class action allegations…We look forward to proceeding with the case on behalf of the many hundreds, if not thousands, of Westminster Management’s tenants who have been victimized by those illegal fees.”

(excerpt from July 23, 2018 ProPublica article – to read full article, click here.)

The tenants are represented by Andy Freeman and Jean Zachariasiewicz of Brown, Goldstein & Levy; Matt Hill of the Public Justice Center; and Jane Santoni, Matt Vocci, and Chelsea Ortega of Santoni, Vocci & Ortega.

Fortune article

This is an update to our September 27, 2017 press release “Maryland Tenants File Class Action Against Westminster Management to Stop Illegal Fee Collection Practices.”