Lawsuit targets Trump for “fraudulent” rent overcharge scheme

Former tenants of Brooklyn buildings once owned by the Trumps seek class-action status

President Donald Trump and 1483 Shore Parkway in Brooklyn (Getty; Google Maps)
President Donald Trump and 1483 Shore Parkway in Brooklyn (Getty; Google Maps)

Former residents of buildings previously owned by the Trump family have filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump, seeking restitution for a rent overcharge scheme that affected as many as 14,000 tenants over more than a decade.

In the lawsuit, which amended an initial complaint filed in October, the 20 named plaintiffs seek class-action status, the New York Times first reported. A favorable ruling for the tenants could open up the Trump Organization to paying the extra rent, plus interest and treble damages.

The apartment buildings belonged to Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump, a prolific developer in Brooklyn and Queens.

The rental increases were carried out by padding invoices for improvements like boilers, using a company, All County, as an intermediary, the lawsuit alleges. Invoices for the repairs were inflated from 20 to 50 percent, allowing the property owner to hike rents, lawyers for the tenants allege. The rents remained high even after the buildings were sold in 2004 to Cammeby’s International, a firm led by Ruby Schron, one of the largest apartment owners in New York City.

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The alleged scheme was first uncovered by a lengthy Times investigation in 2018.

The lawsuit said the inflated rent increases amounted to a scheme to “systematically cheat and steal from the tenants of rent regulated buildings,” and called the defendants’ actions “fraudulent, deceptive” and “thieving.”

A spokesperson for the Trump family told the Times the lawsuit was “completely frivolous,” and noted that the it was initially filed exactly one month before the general election.

“Not only are the allegations completely unsupported by any evidence, but they relate to events which go back nearly 30 years — yet were never once raised by anyone at any time only to be conveniently filed just one month before the 2020 presidential election,” the spokesperson, Kimberly Benza, said in a statement.

This lawsuit comes as the Trump Organization also contends with a New York state investigation into whether Trump inflated the value of four of its properties in order to secure financing and tax breaks.