Kushner Companies claims political motivation is behind a New York housing group’s latest charge that the company conned people out of millions in overcharged rent.
Housing Rights Initiative has generated five lawsuits against Kushner Companies, which is owned by President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, alleging it has been squeezing tenants to bolster its own bottom line.
To date, HRI has pursued two class action suits on behalf of tenants at 89 Hicks Street and 18 Sidney Place in Brooklyn. In 2018, five tenants of 89 Hicks won class action status to claim around $88,000 from Kushner for allegedly illegally deregulating their apartments and hiking up the rent.
That case is still ongoing and HRI announced this morning that it has now secured class action status for the 18 Sidney Place case, calling it a “triumph for tenants.”
“This class certification is the most consequential development in our four-year investigation into Kushner Companies,” said Aaron Carr, founder and executive director of Housing Rights Initiative. “This is not the end, it’s only the beginning. The floodgates are officially opened.”
The suit, filed by Newman Ferrara LLP, alleges Kushner Companies overcharged 18 Sidney tenants and could owe them as much as $2 million in back payments.
Kushner Companies acquired the building in 2014 as part of a package sold by the Brooklyn Law School. Since the building was previously used as student housing, the units were temporarily exempt from rent stabilization laws. However, once Kushner Companies purchased the buildings, all of the units were required to be returned to rent stabilization.
According to HRI, Kushner Companies registered only 11 percent of its units as rent-stabilized, instead of the 100 percent required by law.
Throughout the legal saga, Kushner has denied knowingly withholding any information from the city and attributing any rent irregularities to third party firms hired to do the paperwork.
In response to the class action announcement this morning, Kushner’s general counsel, Christopher W. Smith said, “All of the units at 18 Sidney were rented at appropriate rates and in accordance with applicable law – including every facet of New York’s Rent Stabilization Laws and Rent Stabilization Code.
“The plaintiffs and their politically motivated enablers have intentionally misrepresented and misinterpreted governing law in an effort to convert lawful market-rate units into rent-regulated units.”
Since being named Special Advisor to the President in 2017, Jared Kushner has not been involved in the day-to-day operation of his family’s firm. He also sold his share of WiredScore, a company that uses a rating system for technological capacity in commercial buildings.
As a special advisor to the president of the United States, he has been credited with crafting a criminal-justice reform bill, negotiating new trade deals with Canada and Mexico and repositioning America’s relationships with Saudi Arabia and Israel to redirect political thinking.