MD legislator introduces “Jared Kushner Act” to curb tenant arrests

Previous reporting showed Kushner Companies pursued more body attachments for unpaid rents than any other landlord in the state

Jan.January 31, 2018 04:10 PM

From left: Maryland State House, Jared Kushner and Carroll Park complex in Baltimore (Credit: Getty Images and Google Maps)

Maryland state delegate Bilal Ali is putting Jared Kushner’s name on a new bill that would end the practice of civil arrest for tenants who owe their landlord less than $5,000 in unpaid rent.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the proposed legislation is a renewed attempt to limit the powers of landlords to tap the courts that Maryland’s current attorney general supported just last year. Civil arrest orders, or body attachments, are employed when tenants do not show up for court for hearings on their unpaid debts, rather than to collect the debt itself.

But Ali’s bill comes months after ProPublica and the Sun reported extensively on Kushner Companies reliance on the courts to pursue such debts. Between 2013 and August of 2017, entities affiliated with Kushner Companies filed more than 1,250 legal actions, including pursuing the arrest of 105 tenants who failed to appear in court, more than any other Maryland landlord. At least 20 of those tenants were arrested, according to the Sun.

In a statement to the Sun, company spokesperson Chris Taylor said, “Our local counsel in Maryland handled these matters consistent with other attorneys in similar situations there and in accordance with Maryland law… A body attachment is issued by a court for the failure to abide by two court orders, and is not in any way related to the ability or failure of a debtor to pay a debt…”

Taylor took issue with the name of the bill.

“For a couple of local politicians to sponsor a bill called the Jared Kushner Act when neither Kushner Companies nor Jared Kushner, when he worked at Kushner Companies, had anything to do with these issues is petty, ” she added.

Jared Kushner was the CEO of Kushner Companies until January 2017, when he stepped down to join father-in-law President Trump in the White House, although he still holds interests in the majority of the company’s real estate portfolio, either directly or through family trusts which are managed by the Kushner family.

In September, current and former tenants of Kushner Companies’ 17 Maryland buildings, which are part-owned by Howard Lorber’s New Valley, sued alleging inflated fees and costs charged by the landlord. A request by Kushner Companies’ counsel to seal the names of other investors in the building was then challenged by several news outlets. Earlier this week, Kushner’s request to seal was denied. [Baltimore Sun]Will Parker

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