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Kushner-owned apartment company agrees to penalty in Md. consumer protection case

Tiffany Dixon, at left, points to pictures of maintenance problems in her apartment run by Westminster Management LLC. Attorney General Brian Frosh is holding the photographs. (Madeleine O'Neill/The Daily Record)

Tiffany Dixon, at left, points to pictures of maintenance problems in her apartment run by Westminster Management LLC. Attorney General Brian E. Frosh is holding the photographs. (The Daily Record/Madeleine O’Neill)

An apartment management company owned by Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of former President Donald Trump, has settled with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office over claims the company mistreated renters by ignoring serious maintenance issues and charging illegal fees.

The settlement includes a $3.25 million penalty and the requirement that the company, Westminster Management LLC, pay restitution to current and former tenants.

Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said at a news conference that Westminster used its “vastly superior economic power” to take advantage of tenants who often struggled to pay rent and support their families.

“This is a case in which landlords deceived and cheated their tenants and then subjected them to miserable living conditions,” Frosh said.

Westminster ran 17 housing complexes, totaling about 9,000 rental units in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County, that are owned or were previously owned by 25 different companies, Frosh’s office said in a news release.

Kushner Companies, which owns Westminster, did not respond to an email requesting comment on the settlement Friday. Kushner, who is married to Ivanka Trump, stepped down as CEO of Kushner Companies when he joined the Trump White House, but still has an ownership stake in Westminster.

The management company made “prolific” use of eviction filings, Frosh said, and charged tenants improper agent fees, writ fees and court costs. The company also showed model apartments that were freshly painted and in good condition, only for tenants to find their actual apartment in shambles when they arrived.

Tenants reported serious leaks and flooding, extensive mold problems and severe rodent and bug infestations without receiving adequate responses from the management company, the Attorney General’s Office alleged.

One tenant, Tiffany Dixon, said at Friday’s news conference that her family experienced health issues because of severe mold in her apartment’s vents. She also discovered dead mice “melted” into the stove she used to cook for her children, she said.

“I expected to receive services that we paid for,” Dixon said. “To be able to provide, at the very least, for our kids, a safe and healthy home. As a mom, I feel like with Westminster, I failed.”

The Attorney General’s Office also accused Westminster of failing to return security deposits with interest or making improper deductions, collecting debts without a required collection agency license and offering properties for rent without the appropriate licenses. The office first filed a statement of charges against the company in 2019.

An administrative law judge found last year that the company had repeatedly violated Maryland’s consumer protection laws.

The new settlement requires Westminster to pay a civil penalty of $3.25 million, though it can credit $800,000 toward that amount by paying at least that much to tenants who file claims for poor maintenance or the return of improper fees.

Westminster must pay restitution to tenants who paid excessive application fees or court fees and to those whose use of their apartments was “disturbed” by the company’s failure to provide maintenance services.

Westminster is required to inform tenants who are eligible to participate, Frosh said, and the claim form will also be on the Attorney General’s Office’s website.

The properties included in the settlement are: Carriage Hill Apartments, Carroll Park Apartments, Charlesmont Apartment Homes, The Commons at White Marsh Apartments, Cove Village Apartments, Dutch Village Apartments, Essex Park Apartments and Townhomes, Fontana Village Apartments, Gwynn Oaks Landing Apartments, Hamilton Manor Apartments, Harbor Point Estates, Highland Village Townhomes, Morningside Park Townhomes, Pleasantview Apartments, Princeton Estates Apartment Homes, Riverview Townhomes and Whispering Woods Apartments.