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Lawsuit accuses dozens of apartment complexes of deceptive rental practices, filthy conditions

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Posted at 1:21 PM, Oct 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-23 13:51:01-04

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Westminster Management, LLC, and 25 companies, who's properties they've managed.

The 17 properties were made up of nearly 9,000 rental units across Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Prince George’s County.

According to the lawsuit, Westminster Management and the rental property owners misrepresented the quality of the rental units and the level of maintenance that they would provide to renters.

Westminster Management is owned by Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and current senior adviser to President Donald Trump. Kushner's name is not mentioned in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of routinely failing to address rodent and vermin infestations, water leaks, and mold growth, forcing tenants to either leave their homes or live in unsanitary conditions.

During that time, the suit alleges Westminster Management and the owners demanded, collected, and retained hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees from potential and actual tenants, including charging application fees that exceeded amounts allowed under Maryland law.

Under Maryland’s Application Fee Law, landlords can only charge $25 or their actual costs to process a rental application.

The lawsuit claims Westminster Management and the owners didn't incur costs over $25 to process applications, but overcharged anyway.

When evicting tenants who were late paying their rent, the lawsuit charges that the companies frequently collected fees they weren't entitled to under Maryland’s eviction laws.

Westminster Management and the owners were also said to be in violation of Maryland’s Security Deposit Law.

In the lawsuit, it's alleged that the defendants withheld money from renter's security deposits for damages that weren't their responsibility such as ordinary wear and tear.

Finally, Westminster Management is accused of engaging in illegal debt collection practices.

The state says the firm didn't maintain a license to collect debt, and that the owners of Dutch Village and Pleasantview Apartments, also weren't legally licensed to rent out apartments.

“We allege that the property owners and their property management company violated numerous consumer protection laws, which harmed thousands of Maryland consumers,” said Attorney General Frosh. “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.”

The properties named in the lawsuit 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.

Frosh is seeking a court injunction ordering Westminster and the property owners to stop charging illegal fees, maintain the required licenses, to halt its unfair and deceptive practices, and to provide the safe and sanitary properties that they promise. Frosh's office is also seeking restitution and penalties for violations of Maryland’s Consumer Protection Act.

A hearing is being requested for January 21, 2020.