ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland's attorney general on Wednesday sued a real estate company once run by President Donald Trump's son-in-law over allegedly illegal and harmful rental practices, including the kind of rodent infestations the president has accused Baltimore leaders of failing to address.
Attorney General Brian Frosh announced his office's Consumer Protection Division has filed charges against New Jersey-based Westminster Management, a subsidiary of the Kushner Cos.
Frosh said there have been "numerous" violations of consumer protection laws, which harmed thousands of Maryland residents.
"We're charging that Westminster and the rental property owners in this case took advantage of consumers, primarily low- and middle-income families, collecting fees and other unlawful costs from them and often failing to make the repairs needed to maintain suitable environments for their tenants," said Frosh, a Democrat.
Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the Republican president, stepped down as CEO of the family business before joining the White House. But he still has an ownership stake in the subsidiary.
Laurent Morali, the president of the Kushner Cos., announced last month that the company rejected a settlement offer from Frosh's office.
"We refuse to be extorted by an ambitious Attorney General who clearly cares more about scoring political points than fighting real crime and improving the lives of the people of Maryland," Morali said in a statement Wednesday. "We look forward to defending ourselves against these bogus allegations."
Kushner's family real estate firm owns thousands of apartments and townhomes in the Baltimore area. Some have been criticized for the same kind of disrepair and neglect that Trump has accused local leaders of failing to address, when he referred to Baltimore as a "rat and rodent infested mess."
The company says it is proud of its Baltimore-area apartments and has invested "substantial amounts" in upkeep.
The case filed by Frosh contains administrative charges that will be heard before an administrative law judge.
The charges allege the company and rental property owners routinely failed to address hazardous conditions in the properties, including rodent and vermin infestations, water leaks and mold growth.
The case also alleges that Westminster Management and the owners have demanded, collected and retained hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegitimate fees from prospective and actual tenants.
The company frequently charged additional fees that it never incurred and was not entitled to collect under Maryland law when it filed eviction actions, according to the charges.
The company allegedly violated the state's Security Deposit Law by routinely withholding damages from tenants' security deposits that were not caused by the tenants and were ordinary wear and tear, such as worn carpeting.
The case also alleges the company engaged in illegal debt collection, because the owners of two Baltimore properties, Dutch Village Apartments and Pleasant View Apartments failed to maintain licenses required to legally rent apartments.