Tenants' lawsuit against management company owned by Kushner family allowed to proceed, appellate court rules
Published in Home and Consumer News
BALTIMORE — A lawsuit alleging that a Baltimore-area apartment management company owned by former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law illegally charged additional fees on late rent payments can proceed, the Appellate Court of Maryland ruled this week.
The ruling by the state’s second-highest court is a loss for Westminster Management LLC, an apartment company owned by Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka Trump, and Kushner’s family. A Baltimore circuit judge had granted Westminster summary judgment, dismissing the case, but the higher court’s ruling brings back the litigation.
The firm, where Kushner stepped down as CEO to join his father-in-law’s administration but remains an owner, settled last year with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office in separate litigation that alleged Westminster had taken advantage of financially vulnerable consumers and violated Maryland’s consumer protection laws.
In the suit recently brought back to Baltimore, the tenants alleged that Westminster had charged additional fees on top of the 5% cap state law places on fees for paying rent late.
In addition to a 5% late fee, Westminster charged tenants “agent fees,” “summons fees” and “writ fees” connected to the process of bringing an eviction case to court, according to the lawsuit. When tenants are more than five days late on rent, Westminster “typically charges the tenant the 5% late fee, a $10 agent fee, and summons fee of $20 to $30,” according to a legal filing.
The appellate court rejected Westminster’s arguments that the tenants’ allegations did not pass legal muster. Now, the case can proceed, although no court date has been scheduled and the case remains closed.
“This opinion rejects the numerous reasons that Westminster gave for charging excessive fees and calling such fees ‘rent’ and should serve as a warning to other landlords who engage in these practices,” Matt Hill, a co-counsel for the tenants, said in a statement.
Attorneys for Westminster did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Westminster owns 11 apartment complexes in Maryland, according to its website. The plaintiffs lived in Carroll Park Apartments and Whispering Woods Apartments in Baltimore County, as well as Dutch Village Apartments in Baltimore City. Whispering Woods was sold to Connecticut-based OneWall Partners in 2021 and Carroll Park was sold to Westover Companies in 2019. Dutch Village was sold in 2021 and 2022 and is now managed by Silveredge Property Management.
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