White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s real estate company routinely filed false documents as it pushed vulnerable tenants out of its apartment buildings, according to a new Associated Press report that adds to the business scandals complicating Kushner’s role in his father-in-law’s administration.
Kushner resigned as chief executive of Kushner Cos. before joining President Donald Trump’s administration last year. But he still has a stake in the family business, the AP wrote – and was in charge of the company between 2013 and 2016, when the company allegedly filed at least 80 false applications for construction permits with New York City.
The company stated on the paperwork that no tenants – in at least 34 buildings it owned across New York – were protected by special rules that would have prevented Kushner from raising rents or harassing residents to leave, the AP wrote.
In reality, the AP wrote, tax records showed that hundreds of tenants were protected by such rules.
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By allegedly misleading the city, Kushner’s company was able to clear several buildings of tenants and resell the properties for huge profits.
The AP cited three Queens buildings that the company bought in 2015, for example, inheriting as many as 94 rent-protected units. The company allegedly hid all of them from the city’s Department of Buildings when it applied for construction permits. Most of those tenants had moved out two years later, when the company sold the three buildings for $60 million – “nearly 50 percent more than it paid,” the AP wrote.
One of the few tenants who didn’t leave, a postal worker, told the AP that he hired a lawyer after Kushner’s company tried to raise his rent by 60 percent – from $2,350 to $3,750. His rent was restored once he realized he was protected, he said, but most of his neighbors just left.
In another building where false paperwork was filed, the AP wrote, residents complained of late-night construction, sawdust and lumber in the hallways, rat infestations – and, in one case, a knock on the door offering a $10,000 payoff if the tenant would vacate.
In a statement to The Washington Post, Kushner Cos. said it outsourced the paperwork in question to a third-party company.
“If any forms were filed that contained ministerial errors, it was unintentional and corrected as soon as found … Regarding the specific buildings mentioned, all identified issues were resolved or are in the process of being resolved expeditiously.”
Without offering details, the company suggested that it made the city aware of its protected tenants in “simultaneous filings” and had no financial incentive to mislead anyone.
The AP, by contrast, reported that Kushner Cos. corrected dozens of city forms a year or more after they were filed. This apparently is a common practice among New York landlords, who often go unpunished for what is technically a misdemeanor carrying fines of up to $25,000.
“It’s barefaced greed,” said Aaron Carr, founder of a tenants’ rights watchdog that tipped the AP off to the allegedly false paperwork. A New York City Council member said he planned to open an investigation into the matter.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Kushner, whose signature was not on any of the documents in question.
In many ways, the case echoes accusations made against Kushner’s father-in-law, Trump, in an infamous case from the 1980s.
When he was a young New York real estate dealer, Trump once bought an old apartment building near Central Park. He planned to rebuild it as a high-rent tower, but many longtime residents refused to move out.
Trump was accused of hiring a third-party manager that made life in the building a living hell over the following years – covering windows with tin and going so far as to forbid a Christmas tree in the lobby. Trump even threatened to house homeless people in the building if residents wouldn’t leave.
But that scandal occurred decades before Trump entered politics. Kushner’s troubles, on the other hand, are hitting as he serves Trump in one of the White House’s most powerful roles – and the new rental accusations are not his first.
Although he no longer leads Kushner Cos., his financial history has come up in special counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation into whether Trump’s presidential campaign illegally worked with the Russian government, The Washington Post reported.
Kushner has also been accused of meeting with potential foreign investors in the company during the presidential transition, The Post wrote.
And federal intelligence agencies were so concerned by his family company’s $1.2 billion debt that they refused to grant him permanent security clearance, lest foreign governments try to manipulate him with his desire for cash.