by Jared Kushner The family-owned real estate company, which owns and manages thousands of apartments, has continued its aggressive eviction practices and debt collection lawsuits as Americans wait for government help. Long after the coronavirus crisis, which led to soaring unemployment, court records show that properties owned by Kushner companies are still filing new eviction lawsuits.
At least 15 tenants in New Jersey and Maryland faced lawsuits from properties owned by Kushner, even after the two states declared states of emergency. Govt. Phil Murphy, DN.J., and Larry Hogan, R-Md., have both called for a moratorium on evictions and the courts have been closed, postponing court dates for a range of activities related to the recovery of receivables.
Moratoriums on evictions in Maryland and New Jersey, however, do not prevent debt collectors from filing new lawsuits.
On March 25, Westminster Management, a unit of Kushner Companies, filed a lawsuit seeking sheriff’s services to enforce an eviction against a man residing in the company’s Harbor Point Estate apartment in Essex, Maryland. A few days later, on March 30, Kushner’s company filed a collection lawsuit against another man at the same resort.
The previous week, on March 19, Oxford Arms, a Kushner-owned apartment complex in Edison, New Jersey, filed six lawsuits against tenants. Other lawsuits have been filed in recent weeks against tenants by corporations tied to the Whispering Woods resort in Middle River, Maryland; the Cove Village complex in Essex, Maryland; and the Pier Village building in Long Branch, New Jersey, all of which are owned by Kushner.
Experts say continued collection filings and letters threatening financial penalties in the near future could cause undue stress during a time when Americans are already reeling from mass layoffs, social isolation and health issues. fueled by the pandemic.
“Not being able to sleep, eat, stress with marriage, and stress with family is typical for someone being stalked by a debt collector,” said Peter Holland, a consumer rights attorney based in Annapolis, Maryland. , “and I can only imagine it’s even more typical now.
Kushner, son-in-law of President Donald Trump, is a senior adviser to the White House. Its role in the Covid-19 response effort has come under fire in recent days after the promise of a nationwide network of drive-through testing sites never materialized. Kushner also enlisted his brother Joshua to create a federal response website promised by Trump, which was ultimately scrapped.
Kushner, whose net worth is estimated at around $800 million, has said in the past that he has stepped away from day-to-day management of the real estate company, although he has not waived his stake. Ethical disclosures show he still receives millions of dollars a year in income from rents collected by his assorted real estate portfolio, including the apartment building chain.
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Kushner Companies, as well as New Jersey and Maryland attorneys representing Kushner’s real estate subsidiaries, did not respond to requests for comment.
“We do everything we can for the tenants. I’m not answering any questions, okay? said a staff member at a Kushner-owned apartment complex in Baltimore County.
Kushner Companies has an extensive line of commercial and residential real estate units across the country. The company, founded by Kushner’s father, has been criticized for its predatory business practices. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, in a lawsuit filed last year, accused the company of failing to address rodent infestations while forcing tenants to pay improper fees.
The real estate company’s debt collection practices, which involve hundreds of lawsuits often suing tenants for small amounts of debt, were detailed in reports by ProPublica and the Baltimore Sun. In the past, Kushner’s attorneys have gone so far as to seek civil arrest warrants against at least 105 tenants for unpaid fees and rent.
Last month, Netflix released “Slumlord Millionaire,” a mini-documentary about the abusive practices of Kushner’s real estate companies. The article describes Kushner as a “high-profile predator,” who used stalking tactics to drive out rent-stabilized apartment tenants in New York City, while systematically imposing high fees on tenants in Maryland. The feature shows tenants struggling with debt collection letters, eviction notices, water damage, mold, fire code violations, and shoddy maintenance.
The March Business Court docket in New Jersey and Maryland lists a variety of landlord-initiated eviction and recovery lawsuits. Some documents do not mention the underlying reason for the case. New Jersey law, for example, allows for eviction suits for unpaid rent, drug convictions, or violation of the terms of the rental agreement.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Kushner Companies is turning to suburban markets without rent control laws. After unloading 666 Fifth Avenue, a New York City commercial real estate building in Manhattan plagued by vacancies and mounting debt in 2018, the company has increased its housing portfolio for low- and middle-income people. Last year, the company spent more than $1 billion buying 6,000 suburban apartments in Maryland and Virginia from Lone Star Funds, a Texas-based private equity fund. The acquisition was financed in part by Freddie Mac, the government mortgage provider.
Laurent Morali, president of Kushner Companies, said new multi-family apartment buildings will spur growth because rents can be increased by around 3% per year.
Kushner’s real estate interests, responsible for the family’s immense wealth, have notably benefited greatly from government largesse. The Baltimore Sun found that three family-owned Maryland apartment complexes received $6.1 million in federal rent subsidies from 2015 to 2017.
The bailout could be an even bigger boon to the company. Under the new CARES Act, mortgage payments for low- and middle-income housing estates can be suspended in exchange for freezing evictions for those who cannot pay rent. The law applies to units purchased with government-backed mortgages, which may apply to apartments purchased through Freddie Mac last year, as well as another slice of apartments purchased by Kushner in 2012. It does not It is unclear whether Kushner meets the legal threshold to qualify, and his company did not respond to questions from reporters on the matter.