Residents complained of rats, mice in Kushner-owned buildings before Trump, Cummings feud

Real Estate

Getty Images

These people smelled a rat — and saw a bunch of them too — in Baltimore County, Maryland, apartments owned by the family of President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law.

Weeks after Trump ignited a firestorm of controversy and accusations of racism by calling the Baltimore-area district of Rep. Elijah Cummings “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” CNBC obtained county government records that show plenty of complaints about rats and mice over the past two years in residential buildings owned by the Kushner Companies.

Jared Kushner is married to Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter. He had been CEO of Kushner Companies before becoming, along with his wife, a senior adviser in the White House in 2017. Kushner’s family continues to operate Kushner Companies.

“A family of huge rats are literary [sic] living at the door step,” said one complaint about a Kushner Companies-owned site in February 2017. “Never seen anything like this in my life. They [are not] afraid of anybody either.”

One of the Kushner tenants in Baltimore County, Anita McCoy-Mohhammed, told CNBC that her apartment remains infested with rodents two years after she first complained about them.

“I need somewhere to live without rodents,” McCoy-Mohhammed said.

“The mice act like I am in their house,” McCoy Mohhammed said.

Discarded furniture lays on the ground at the Cove Village apartment complex on July 30, 2019 in the Baltimore suburb of Essex, Maryland. Cove Village is one of several apartment complexes in the Baltimore area owned by President Donald Trump’s son in law and senior White House advisor Jared Kushner’s real estate company.

Mark Wilson | Getty Images

Of the more than 200 complaints detailed in documents Baltimore County’s Department of Permits provided to CNBC about Kushner Companies-owned buildings, more than 75 complaints related to apartments infested with rodents.

The Democrat Cummings’ 7th Congressional district encompasses parts of Baltimore County and the City of Baltimore. The six Kushner complexes where rodent complaints were recorded in records obtained by CNBC are not in Cummings’ district.

“Their [sic] is a major infestation going on between the rental townhomes,” said another complaint filed in February 2018 at the Commons at White Marsh.

“These mice are everything and everywhere including my kitchen table … They poop and pee all over the house in bathrooms, pots and pans, beds, tables, etc.”

Peter Febo, the chief operating officer of Kushner Companies, in an interview with CNBC said the company only has two open complaints related to its seven properties, which contain 4,469 apartments, in Baltimore County.

Febo did not know if those open complaints were related to rodents, or some other issue.

“They could be anything,” he said.

Febo also said the company prides itself on being very responsive to complaints, and to quickly fixing issues that tenants have with their units.

But McCoy-Mohhammed, an older woman who lives in the Kushner-owned Harbor Point Estates Complex, says that when she moved in, the leasing office swore there was not going to be a rodent problem.

However, McCoy-Mohhammed, a senior who lives alone, says that now “I am unable to have company because I am too embarrassed of the rodent problem.”

Like other residents interviewed about their rodent complaints, she was unaware that the Kushner Companies owns her complex, and as a result did not know the connection between her landlords and Trump’s son-in-law.

“If (Trump) is calling Baltimore rat-infested, but his son-in-law owns property that is a major part of the problem, what is he going to do about it?” she asked.

Another former tenant who had complained of rodents, and who asked that only his first name, Jason, be used, said, “It is hypocritical.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment by CNBC for this article.

A split image of President Donald J. Trump (L) and U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.)

The Washington Post | Getty Images

Jason said he moved out of the Kushner-owned building, in the Highland Village Townhomes complex, because of fear that his young child was going to be bitten by a rodent

“Our landlord didn’t do s—. They didn’t do a damn thing,” Jason said. “All they said was don’t worry about (the rodents) until they get into your house,” Jason said.

Cierra Angeles, a tenant of Highland Village Townhomes, another Kushner housing complex in Baltimore, said that “It’s not safe and sanitary for my kids,” and that her landlord “doesn’t do anything to help the customer.”

“They just care about the money,” Angeles said.

She conceded that rodents are a problem in other Baltimore buildings, but also said “shouldn’t have to be worried about one jumping out of the wall and onto my kids though.”

A federal government worker who agreed to speak to CNBC under the condition of anonymity out of fear of losing her job said that “the rodents were having orgies in my house; I was sweeping the babies up off of the floor.”

That woman said the infestation at the property was so bad that she and her family skipped rent and moved out over fear for the conditions her 4 children were living in.

Senior Advisor Jared Kushner listens while US President Donald Trump announces an agreement with Guatemala regarding people seeking asylum in the Oval Office of the White House on July 26, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Febo, the COO of Kushner properties, when asked about the complaints noted in county records, said, “If you look at those … if we do get a violation or a call, we do close it out,” meaning it is remediated by the company.

Febo said that in the nearly eight years that Kushner Companies has owned the complexes in Baltimore County, there were 604 violations in total cited by county officials.

“If you look at every one of them, every one of those have been closed out except for two,” Febo said.

He also noted that the company has been fined just $750 for the violations at its locations in the county.

“As an organization, we are very proactive with our residents,” he said. “We do not sit on any type of issue.”

Febo said an exterminator visits the complexes weekly, and that when residents say they have a rodent problem their apartment is put on a list for the exterminator to visit.

“We spend a lot of money on extermination,” he said. “When there is an issue, we address it right away, because we don’t want it to spread to a different area.”

Febo also said that in Baltimore City, where Kushner Companies has owned 803 apartments since 2012, “we’ve only received seven violations [for various issues] all of which are cleared,” and none of which led to a fine by city officials.

“Over the past seven years as an organization [owning buildings in Baltimore] we’ve invested over $30 million in capital improvements to our residential properties,” Febo said.

Those have included roof upgrades, unit upgrades, and playgrounds, he said. And the company also has kept up “really well with our landscaping” in an effort to minimize any problems with rodents, he said.

“I don’t know any landlord in this country that doesn’t get complaints,” Febo said.

But, he added, “we work very hard to make our places great places to live.”

Febo noted that the company’s complexes have an occupancy rate of between 94 and 98 percent.

Additional reporting by Ryan Ruggiero and Christopher Butler

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *