Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of and advisor to President Trump, is facing legal troubles for his own real estate work outside of the White House. Several tenants of Baltimore properties owned by Kushner’s real estate company Westminster Management have filed a class action suit against the company, among others, based on the manner in which the company allegedly charges late fees on rent payments and allocates future rent payments, arguing that the practices violate Maryland’s consumer protection, debt collection, and landlord/tenant law.
The Allegations Against Westminster Management
The lawsuit, which was filed in a Baltimore Circuit court, alleges that the defendants violated Maryland’s landlord/tenant law which limits late fees to 5% of the total rent for the month, by also adding in an “agent fee” as well as a “summons fee” or “writ fee” on top of the 5% late payment fee, which they say makes for an illegally high late fee. The plaintiffs take particular issue with the “summons fee” and “writ fee” charges, which they say wrongly suggest that the defendants incurred court fees when no action in court was taken.
Furthermore, the plaintiffs allege further violations of Maryland property law by later applying portions of rent payments made on time to cover the disputed late fees from previous rent cycles, causing the later payment to fall short of the total rent due. This would allegedly incur another 5% late fee based on a percentage of the entire month’s rent, even though most of the rent had been paid on time.
The suit also alleges that the defendants violated the state’s debt collection laws and consumer protection laws by using unauthorized tactics of trying to collect rent such as demanding attorney fees when no court had awarded such fees to be made.
While it remains to be seen how the Maryland courts will rule on the plaintiff’s claims or their potential certification as a class, it does serve as a strong reminder of the multitude of state laws that can be implicated with day-to-day landlord/tenant matters such as late rent fees.
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