Judge of the Day, Lawyer of the Day, Real Estate

Why People Don’t Like Lawyer Tenants

Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor

Oh, condominiums. To own your own box of air in the sky, subject to the terms and conditions of your neighbors and building managers. Lex Luthor always had this right: either you own land or ponces wearing underwear on the outside can swoop in and ruin your good time.

We’ve got a couple of lawyer/condo issues floating around, so let’s tackle them together. We’ve got a Miami judge who allegedly likes to kick in doors to her own unit. And we’ve a New York lawyer who wants satisfaction over 109 missing square feet…

Any time you have a judge accused of kicking in doors, you’ve got to start with that. Here’s the story from the Miami New Times:

When Alex de Gasperi resigned last month as board director of Imperial House, a luxury Miami Beach tower, he didn’t leave quietly. Instead, he circulated a four-page letter lambasting another high-profile resident: Circuit Court Judge Mindy Glazer.

De Gasperi says Glazer damaged a door by kicking it and later intimidated the board into backing an insurance deal that paid her husband, David Gaynor, thousands in commission. The accusation comes just a week after revelations that Gaynor paid the state $50,000 for wrongly claiming Homestead tax exemptions on two condos.

Judge Glazer’s husband denies the allegations of insurance shenanigans. The damaged door is a little more clear:

She first crossed de Gasperi in March 2009 after she locked herself out of her apartment. When Glazer asked an attendant for spare keys, he told her she’d have to wait for a board member. Glazer instead “indicated she was going to break the door and then did,” according to an incident report from the condo.

The condo billed her $150 for the damage. She paid, but countered in a letter that her three children were locked inside and that refusing immediate help to residents “poses a great danger.”

See, here’s why I’d never want to “own” a condo (not like anybody is giving me a choice or anything). Part of owning something is that wonderful freedom to break your own s**t without somebody hassling you about it. If I’m locked out of my land, and I want to break down a door to get in, I break down the door to get in. I replace it, I don’t replace it, it’s my call. ‘Cause it’s mine.

But look at poor Judge Glazer here. She’s got to bargain with a freaking condo board in order to break her own door? Bah. That’s not ownership, that’s managed control. And most people willingly submit to this kind of subjugation. But not lawyers. Lawyers know their rights; they expect to be treated like “owners” of their condos, even as the condo board wants them to act like more-free-tenants.

Which brings us to our other lawyer/condo owner. A story in the New York Times (gavel bang: ABA Journal) has a lawyer asking, “Where’s the square feet?”

Four years ago, Rishi Bhandari and his fiancée put down a deposit on Apartment 3T at 110 Livingston Street, the old Board of Education headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn, which was being converted to condominiums. The price was not exorbitant, $795,000, for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment.

But just before they were to close, Mr. Bhandari noticed that the living space seemed smaller than he had expected. He returned with a measuring tape, he said, and confirmed his suspicions: the bedrooms, living room and kitchen area covered only 634 square feet, even though the floor plans said they had 743.

For the non-New Yorkers in the audience, let me bring you up to speed:

  • Nearly $800K for two bedrooms and almost 750sq/ft of living space is a great price in New York.
  • Yes, that’s embarrassing.
  • Yes, when you are cramming yourself into a shoebox with indoor plumbing, 109 sq/ft is something worth going to the mattresses over.

Honestly, I have no clue how big my apartment is. I know what it’s listed at. But I’ve seen units listed as the same square footage of mine that are clearly larger than my space. And units that are clearly smaller. I think there’s like a board of 12 people who go around to New York City apartments and figure out how many square feet the unit “feels” like, and that’s what they list. I don’t think a tape measure is involved at any point in the process.

So I appreciate Rishi Bhandari’s lawyerly “fact-finding.” And really, the building developer isn’t even disputing Bhandari’s claims. From the ABA Journal:

The developer offered to refund Bhandari’s deposit and let him out of the contract, but Bhandari didn’t like the offer. Instead, Bhandari wanted a price reduction for the discrepancy, calculated to be about $111,000 by one appraiser. His suit claims deceptive trade practices and false advertising.

The developer has countered that its offering plans warned that square footage was approximate, and included “points behind the boundary walls.” Its countersuit claims Bhandari breached the purchase contract.

Points beyond the boundary walls? WTF is that? Actually, it happens all the time in NYC. Back to the Times:

In a city where every square inch is precious, Mr. Bhandari’s case goes to the heart of one of the most contentious topics in real estate: how to measure the size of a home. Some calculations include the closets; some count the space between walls; many, it seems, contain a few dozen square feet pulled out of thin air. There is no hard rule, and so lawsuits are uncommon…

The state attorney general’s office, which oversees the sale of new condominiums, does not tell developers how to tabulate space, but requires them to disclose to buyers how they do it and to abide by their stated guideline. (In co-op conversions, square footage is not required to be reported.)

And that, my friends, is why we need lawyer tenants even though developers and building managers abhor them. “Lawsuits are uncommon,” despite this nebulous standard? That’s BS.

We need some standardized practices when it comes to how much space you are actually buying or renting in this overcrowded metropolis. When you push people so close together, you need a lot of rules to keep them in line.

Maybe true “freedom” is only available in more rural areas where people can own their land and have true control over their property.

Judge Mindy Glazer Accused of Misbehaving at Her Luxury Condo Tower [Miami New Times]
Dispute Shines Light on How Homes Are Measured [New York Times]
Lawyer’s Suit Against Developer Claims Condo Was Missing 109 Square Feet [ABA Journal]

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