Congressional Democrats from Maryland are seeking help from Republican lawmakers in trying to obtain records they requested two months ago from Jared Kushner's real estate company to assess its rental practices at apartment complexes in the Baltimore region.
In a letter Friday, Democratic Rep. Elijah E. Cummings asked his Republican colleagues on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to join him "in sending a bipartisan letter to the Kushner Companies" requesting the records and the meeting the Maryland Democrats originally asked for on Aug. 18.
Cummings is seeking the information to help examine reports by The Baltimore Sun, ProPublica and the New York Times that examined the practices of Kushner Cos.' 17 apartment complexes in Maryland. Three of the apartment complexes have received $6.1 million in federal rental subsidies from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to federal records obtained by The Sun.
Cummings and other Democrats have been seeking records and a briefing with company officials to help them determine if the New York-based firm had "failed to maintain rental units throughout the Baltimore region in compliance with the quality standards established by HUD for properties that participate in federal subsidy programs, such as the Section 8 rental assistance program," according to the letter Cummings sent Oct. 20 to Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Emily Wolf, general counsel for the Kushner Cos., said in a statement in August that the company is in compliance with the federal Housing Choice voucher program, also known as Section 9. A spokesman said Monday that the company had no comment.
The original letter sent in August was signed by Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and Anthony G. Brown.
The lawmakers cited a magazine article by ProPublica and The New York Times and an investigation by The Sun that the company uses aggressive legal tactics against tenants who often alleged substandard living conditions in the Kushner Cos.' apartment buildings.
Jared Kushner, son-in-law of President Donald J. Trump, was CEO of the Kushner Cos. from 2008 until Jan. 19, when he stepped down to join the Trump administration. He retains ownership of the firm.
An analysis of court records shows that the firm has filed more than 1,200 civil actions against former tenants in Maryland for unpaid debts, actions that have included "body attachment" requests that seek to have renters arrested for allegedly not appearing at court hearings.
The lawmakers asked for information about how many lawsuits the company has filed against tenants, including those who receive vouchers, and how much money judges have awarded to the firm. They also requested "copies of all requests for body attachments filed by Kushner Companies in the state of Maryland."
Since 2013, when the Kushner Cos. began their first full year of operations in Maryland, affiliates of the firm have sought the arrest of 105 former tenants — more than any other firm in the state — for allegedly failing to appear in court to face allegations of unpaid debt.
Judges have awarded the firm a total of $5.4 million in judgments against tenants, who owed an average debt of nearly $4,400, The Sun's analysis found. Their original average debts were $2,950, but lawyers fees, court costs and interest charges inflated the final judgments.
Judges have approved the garnishment of tenants' wages in nearly all those cases.
In the new letter, Cummings also cited a recent lawsuit filed by Baltimore-area tenants who allege that the firm "may be engaging in a pattern of adding 'small but improper fees to the rents of tenants' and 'then misallocating rent payments to those fees in order to generate more fees.'"
A Kushner Cos. spokesman said last month that the company "will respond to the complaint at the appropriate time in the legal proceedings."