A Maryland state lawmaker in Baltimore has introduced what he calls the “Jared Kushner Act” -- a bill that would ban the state's judges from issuing arrest warrants for tenants being sued for less than $5,000 in unpaid rent.
Delegate Bilal Ali’s measure follows reports that the real estate management company owned by Kushner, a top adviser to President Donald Trump, was among the most forceful companies in Maryland in getting civil arrest warrants against tenants, the Baltimore Sun reported.
The bill aims to prohibit courts in the state from issuing arrest warrants “for a tenant who is a defendant in a landlord-tenant action in which the amount of rent claimed does not exceed $5,000, exclusive of interest and costs.”
The warrants – called “body attachments” – are not issued for owning the money but for failing to show up in court to address the debt. The warrants are a way to encourage tenants to appear.
The management company owned by Kushner, called Kushner Cos., reportedly filed more than 1,000 legal actions against the tenants since 2013. The courts awarded $5.4 million in judgments against renters who owed on average $4,400 in addition to lawyers’ fees, court costs and interest to the company, the Sun found.
Court records indicated that at least 20 former tenants, who stayed at properties provided by the Kushner-affiliated company, have been detained as a result of unpaid rent.
“Government has always developed policies to financially protect wealthy institutions such as the Bank Bailout of 2008,” Ali told the Sun. “On the flip side, regressive policies that hurt and even incarcerate the poor have historically been the norm. This bill prohibits policies that were developed to hurt poor communities and jail poor residents.”
Officials at New York-based Kushner Cos denied wrongdoing, saying the company seeks civil arrest warrants only as a last resort when tenants miss two court hearings about the alleged debts.
“Our local counsel in Maryland handled these matters consistent with other attorneys in similar situations there and in accordance with Maryland law,” company spokeswoman Christine Taylor told the Sun.
“It is clear that this proposed bill with its proposed name is politically motivated,” she added. “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.”
Kushner used to be the CEO of the Kushner Cos. but stepped down from the position Jan. 19, 2017, as he took a key role in the Trump administration. The company is still owned by him.