Good Landlords vs. Bad Tenants? Let the Lawsuits Begin!


landlords vs. tenantsAn article in the Sunday issue of the New York Times (“A House Divided:  Uncivil War on E. 73rd Street,” December 10, 2006) describes a dispute between a landlord and an unhappy tenant in a tony Upper East Side brownstone of New York City.  A battle like that is always a case of someone’s word against the other, but if you read through the article, it becomes easier to decipher who is in the wrong, so to speak. 

Mr. Pavia, the landlord, rented out some floors of his luxurious brownstone to several tenants.  Along came Mr. Couri the tenant.  Mr. Couri started to have problems with a longtime tenant, a gay designer, who lived above him, complaining of noises, music, and partying.  He sent the designer letters citing “lies… late p.m. homosexual escapades,” and threatened to disgrace him by writing to interior design agencies and magazines.

The designer, who never had problems with other tenants or Mr. Pavia before, moves out.  Mr. Pavia eventually sued Mr. Couri for obnoxious and harassing behavior, and Mr. Couri countersued by saying that his landlord refused to disclose the rent-stabilized status of the building.

The article, however, mentions that Mr. Couri, who dresses impeccably in a 3-piece suit, has a history of suing people (nearly 150 times since 1972).  He also has pleaded guilty in the past of defrauding a bank.  If Mr. Pavia had done a background check on him, the problems might have been prevented.

We’ve also had some issues with tenants.  Years ago, when my husband was looking to rent out his apartment, a friend of his who worked in theater introduced to him a young man who was an actor.  I even met the guy; he was good-looking, personable, a little jittery maybe, but seemed like a nice guy.  But jittery was the part we should have focused on.  He turned out to be a crack addict.  Luckily, his family stepped in and moved him out so we didn’t have to begin eviction proceedings.

Unless you personally know the potential tenant well, a background check on a potential tenant should be performed.  A check on credit history and from a tenant-screening agency can be done easily and should be done even when a tenant comes with a referral, as ours did.  For more information, check out on what landlords should know from the FTC.

About Author

I have lived in New York City for 16 years, and sadly, my no. 1 passion is looking at real estate ads and going to open houses for fun. Currently living in a rental apartment after having bought and sold real estate in Manhattan, I really would like to buy something again. If I can only persuade my husband, who seems pathologically unable to pull the trigger.

1 Comment

  1. Robert Austin on

    OK in my case I didn’t have a choice; I inherited a bad tenant due to a state imposed eviction moratorium on foreclosed units, which is what I purchased.

    He’s had several infractions since I took over due to loud music, partying, cutting out window screens, etc. At first I tried talking it out, words didn’t work so I had to move to written warnings and finally tree day notices. He has retaliated by reporting me twice to the city for bogus safety violations; the city closed the case both times after not finding any. He also reported me to the fair housing administration for harassment, after explaining my side to the representative and agreeing to mediation, I haven’t heard back from her and its been three weeks now.

    Is there any way I can check his background now or at least check if he’s committed any crimes while living on my property? I want to know what exactly I’m dealing with here. And oh yeah I own in a rent-controlled area of Los Angeles.

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