A damning investigative piece published by the New York Times and ProPublica today examines a relatively unexplored side of top White House aide and Donald Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s real estate empire: his vast holdings in housing units for working-class people.
The article, by Alec MacGillis, paints Kushner as little more than a slumlord—one who is not only dangerously neglectful as a landlord, but has aggressively pursued the most vulnerable tenants over the measliest of fees.
MacGillis uncovers the workings of JK2 Westminister, a company Kushner owned until late last year (he is still a stakeholder). Among other properties, JK2 owns and manages a range of complexes in the Baltimore area, where thousands of people live.
MacGillis spoke to a a range of tenants who were either previous or current renters at Kushner’s properties. He found a clear, disturbing pattern: JK2 was committed to “pursuing tenants over virtually any unpaid rent or broken lease—even in the numerous cases where the facts appear to be on the tenants’ side.”
From the article:
Not only does the company file cases against them, it pursues the cases for as long as it takes to collect from the overmatched defendants — often several years. The court docket of JK2 Westminster’s case against [one tenant, Kamiia Warren], for instance, spans more than three years and 112 actions — for a sum that amounts to maybe two days’ worth of billings for the average corporate-law-firm associate, from a woman who never even rented from JK2 Westminster. The pursuit is all the more remarkable given how transient the company’s prey tends to be. Hounding former tenants for money means paying to send out process servers who often report back that they were unable to locate the target. This does not deter Kushner Companies’ lawyers. They send the servers back out again a few months later.
In December 2012, JK2 Westminster filed suit in Baltimore County District Court against [Joan] Beverly, seeking $3,810.16 — several months of rent it said it was owed, plus about $1,000 in repair costs, including $10 for “failure to return laundry room card.”
And no, not even death could make Kushner stop. Beverly, mentioned above, died of cancer two weeks later, but the case against her remains open. The chief financial officer of Kushner Companies told MacGillis that the pursuit was justified. “As property manager, it’s our job to collect rent payments,” she said.
Additionally, it appears Kushner’s aggression was only matched by his neglect. The article lays out a laundry list from tenant after tenant—several of whom described themselves as Donald Trump supporters—whose maintenance requests had gone unheeded for months. This is how MacGillis describes one especially horrifying string of incidents:
The worst troubles may have been those described in a 2013 court case involving Jasmine Cox’s unit at Cove Village. They began with the bedroom ceiling, which started leaking one day. Then maggots started coming out of the living-room carpet. Then raw sewage started flowing out of the kitchen sink. “It sounded like someone turned a pool upside down,” Cox told me. “I heard the water hitting the floor and I panicked. I got out of bed and the sink is black and gray, it’s pooling out of the sink and the house smells terrible.”
JK2 not only didn’t fix this problem, it reportedly sent the tenant an invoice for $600 for “new carpet and other repairs.”
Kushner’s company told MacGillis that, in his words, “it follows industry standards for maintenance staffing and exterminator visits, and that it and its partners had spent $10 million on upgrades across the complexes,” though it acknowledged that issues can sometimes arise.
Kamiia Warren, the aforementioned tenant whose life was devastated by Kushner’s relentless pursuit of a few thousand dollars, summed up the core imbalance of power in the situation to MacGillis:
“They know how to work this stuff,” she replied. “They know what to do, and here I am, I don’t know anything about the law. I would have to hire a lawyer or something, and I really can’t afford that. I really don’t know my rights. I don’t know all the court lingo. I knew that up against them I would lose.”
The internet reacted with horror at the revelations in the piece.
Read the full story here.
Note: this story has been updated with one of Kushner Companies’ responses to MacGillis.