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Blogs | May, 3 2021

A recent ruling in a consumer case reinforces the need for access to counsel in eviction-related cases 

This week in Access to Justice news, a Maryland administrative law judge found Jared Kushner’s apartment rental company broke several consumer protection laws by misrepresenting property conditions, charging improper fees, and collecting debts without necessary licenses. 

The finding is a result of a lawsuit filed in 2019 by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division alleged JK2, the company owned by Kushner and his brother, and its successor, Westminster Management, took advantage of scores of vulnerable Marylanders. 25 additional rental companies were named in the lawsuit. Issues ranged from hundreds of thousands of dollars collected in improper fees to appalling reports of mice and mold. In some cases, rental properties did not possess mandatory licenses – meaning that the entire rental operation was carried out unlawfully.

The case, entitled Consumer Protection Division v. Westminster Management, LLC, et al. highlights some of the defenses that tenants facing eviction have regularly struggled to articulate in Maryland’s civil justice system. The Access to Justice Commission has long advocated for a right to counsel in these cases. Moreover, the provision of legal counsel in eviction proceedings was a chief recommendation of the Attorney General’s COVID-19 Access to Justice Task Force.

Although the defense repeatedly claimed the action against former President Trump’s son-in-law was politically motivated, Administrative Law Judge Emily Daneker rejected that argument, writing, “The evidence does not establish differential treatment or selective enforcement based on any politically motivated basis, as opposed to motivation to protect Maryland consumers.”

Not every claim against Kushner’s company held fast, however. Judge Daneker declined to find all allegations occurred within the time frame stated by the Attorney General, nor that the company misrepresented its ability to perform basic maintenance on units.

Following this ruling, both sides may file a response within 30 days. A final order – which could include penalties and restitution damages totaling millions of dollars – will be issued by a representative of the Maryland Consumer Protection Division.