Rental Dementia: Landing the Whale

Written by Brian Carter on . Posted in Opinion and Column, Posts.


It was a monster of a loft. Corcoran had the listing and I represented the client. It was 2,200 square feet, boasted high ceilings, had two bedrooms, an open kitchen and walls of oversized windows. It featured a keyed elevator, and it was in a prime Soho location. It was ruining my vacation.

After negotiating the price, fee, and start date, my client was ready to sign the lease and to send checks. Other than the “few small changes” he made to the lease, we were all set.

We had been through this before. I met him almost a year ago when he walked into the office and refused to fill out our standard information form. He just wanted to see a few lofts and not get a hundred phone calls afterward. I could respect that. We saw two lofts in Soho and another in Tribeca. I googled him the minute I got back to the office. It turned out my client, “Raymond,” was a major Hollywood producer with credits anyone would recognize. Shocker.

On our first go around, he settled on the two-bedroom in Tribeca, but then vanished in the middle of negotiations. A month later he resurfaced and wanted to know if the apartment was still available. Naturally it wasn’t. I could have written him off right then, but with a few screenplays in mind, I decided not to mention the disappearing act. It was the beginning of a long relationship.

It’s a year later and I fully expected this current deal to be done. I’m two hours away from the beach and should have a $3,400 check waiting for me when I return. That’s when the phone rang.

The changes to the lease aren’t minor. They include: a clause giving him the right to terminate the lease if certain repairs aren’t complete. He’s added his girlfriend and family as parties permitted to live in the loft, despite the fact that the lease clearly states the tenant has no right to sublet or assign the lease. Those were the “big” issues.

He’s paying close to $8,000 a month and is ready to fork over, in essence ,three months security. Including the fee, he’s looking at close to $45,000 before he ever puts his bag down. He’s got a right to be particular, but we’re entering a pissing match that he can’t win.

We were told from the start that the apartment was to be delivered “as is.” The repairs he wanted were basically minor, but no landlord would consent to repairs in a lease. We had already been warned that only the tenant was to live in the space, and there was no way in hell the owner would ever allow a sublet.

There’s no such thing as an easy deal, and I’ve had to fight one way or another for the majority of them. This was different. I’m standing on the beach screaming into the phone. Family members are telling me, “Relax. Let it go.” I don’t even care about the deal anymore. I just don’t like being called a swindler by my own client.

After wasting most of my vacation trying to placate and reassure this guy, he has the nerve to outwardly accuse me of only caring about getting paid. He thinks I’m pushing this deal through and not looking after his interests. What he doesn’t realize is that it was never about the money. Do you know how hard it is to get a Hollywood producer to read your script?

Five conference calls, 30 urgent messages and four trips a day back to the house to check new emails, and we have cleared up all of the major issues—except for one: The guy capable of authorizing the repairs is also on vacation, and smart enough to turn his cell phone off. We can’t get an answer, and my guy is demanding one. In fact, he won’t budge without one.

We’re talking about a broken ceiling fan, some touch-up work, clean windows and a couple of blinds. It was two more days of sheer torture and insanity. I was circling our beach blanket, going over it with him again, and ignoring the dirty looks from sun-bathers. I had been asked to keep it down more than once.

It rained most of our last day on the island. It didn’t matter. I spent most of it calling window cleaners, handy-men and painters. We were still negotiating as the car crossed the bridge and dropped us back on the mainland. My vacation was officially over. I pictured the $3,400 check floating in the bay, right next to my screenplay.

I’m back in New York. It’s 9:15 Tuesday night. My client just left another message. We are a conference call away from wrapping this deal up. Maybe.

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