The real estate company owned by Jared Kushner, son-in-law and top adviser to President Donald Trump, has been the most aggressive in Maryland in using a controversial debt-collection tactic: getting judges to order the arrest of people who owe his company money.
Since 2013, the first full year in which the Kushner Cos. operated in Maryland, corporate entities affiliated with the firm’s 17 apartment complexes in the state have sought the civil arrest of 105 former tenants for failing to appear in court to face allegations of unpaid debt, The Baltimore Sun has found.
That’s more than any other landlord in the state over that time, an analysis of Maryland District Court data shows. Court records show that 20 former Kushner tenants have been detained.
Industry professionals say such arrests, called body attachments, can be the only way to get tenants to pay the money they owe. Kushner Cos. officials say the New York-based firm employs the tactic as a last resort, and follows industry standards and state law.
But critics say it amounts to jailing people for being poor — and can interfere with their livelihoods, making it more difficult to pay the money they allegedly owe. Moreover, at least some tenants who have been targeted say they did not receive proper notice of the court appearances they were accused of missing.
Advocates for consumer rights have long pushed for legislation to limit body attachments.
“People are being arrested for a debt that they may not even be aware of, or for a court date they may not have been aware of,” said state Sen. William C. Smith, a Montgomery County Democrat. Being arrested, he said, has a “devastating effect.”
Judges approve body attachments to compel tenants to show up at civil proceedings. Landlords say tenants are not arrested for owing money, but for missing at least two court hearings about the alleged arrears.
When a landlord wins a judgment against a tenant, he or she may ask the judge to order the tenant to appear in court to answer questions about assets and employment to determine garnishments. If the tenant fails to appear, the judge may issue another summons to determine why the person shouldn’t be held in contempt.