Rick Aidekman and the Crazy World of NYC Landlords
I decided to divert today and discuss attorneys, both those that I have referenced before in specific situations with some of the Crazy Landlords and others that have yet to be brought into this story.
The first attorney I want to discuss is noted not for anything that he had done that wasn’t perfectly proper, or that he wasn’t a smart prepared and tough attorney representing his client to the best of his ability. In fact, I totally respected him for his intelligence, diligence, and desire to represent his client to the best of his ability. I respected him for his quick wit and humor in representing the Dracula Landlord. I will refer to him, for this article, as Jack, as I am sure, like most of those who I am writing about, he would rather be anonymous. Jack’s wit was most evident in his comments about his client, Dracula. Even though his comments were often sarcastic in nature, there always appeared to be a little bit of affection included.
The first time this wit appeared was when he acted indignant when my counsel suggested that Dracula was not a man who honored his word and that he was greedy and not known for his generosity. Jack’s feigned indignant statement went something like the following:
“People are always saying that Dracula (he actually used his client’s real name) is not a person that you could trust when he gave his word. Well let me tell you that Dracula would give you the shirt off his back. And, if he told you that, you could absolutely count on him doing so. However, when you came to him to pick up the shirt, he would say:
‘Not this shirt,’
‘I didn’t mean I would give it to you this Tuesday.’
‘I didn’t say I would give it to you for nothing.’
Yes, Dracula would give you the shirt off his back. That’s the kind of man he is”
Another time, Jack was discussing what Dracula would do with the money he received when selling the properties to us. As I discussed in my articles about Dracula, he realized that it was dangerous for him to reinvest his money in properties with residential tenants, as he would be back in trouble quickly. So, he decided to invest in commercial properties that had long term leases. His favorite investment was with properties leased by the U.S Government, most notably leases with U.S. Post Offices throughout the country. He knew he would get paid, and that he would have no management responsibilities, as the Post Office typically took care of repairs on the properties it leased. Jack noted this preference with one interesting comment. Jack spoke about Dracula’s investment preference as one of pride in that:
“Dracula is the only owner of United States Post Offices with his picture on the wall.”
The reference was an obvious mocking of his client’s history of being criminally charged and the pictures he referred to would be “Wanted Posters.”
When we were executing the contracts to purchase his properties, Jack suggested we make sure that Dracula’s pen was not filled with invisible ink.
Another attorney that I also mentioned in previous articles. Also, a bright and hard worker, loyal to his clients. The two key incidents that I want to recall are where I questioned his ethics. In the first matter, in negotiating the contract for us to purchase his client’s property he objected to a provision that 100% of attorneys agree with, that is other than him. Like the attorney for Dracula, his client had also spent time in jail for defrauding a major government institution. As I am sure, everyone who has ever bought a home knows, a deposit is made upon the execution of the contract, which deposit is held in escrow, either by a title company or an attorney. He was willing to hold the escrow, but he refused to include language that if the money disappeared due to his gross negligence, or outright fraud, that he would be held responsible. This meant that he could take our deposit, keep it, and not have any responsibility. We could not believe he was serious. The seller then had to agree that our attorney’s firm, that was bonded, could hold the deposit. Which he did, as he needed the money he would receive on a sale.
When it came to the closing, the same attorney showed up late, walked into the conference room where we were closing and blurted out “Let’s close. My client has paid all his taxes to date, so the title company doesn’t need to take any money from him to protect the buyer (us) from having to pay the Seller’s unpaid taxes.” Unfortunately, we knew that he hadn’t paid taxes in over two years and owed over $70,000 in past taxes. Lawyers are often accused of being unethical. This was clearly one of them.
Another attorney that I mentioned in a previous article was known as being impossible to deal with. The incident that I want to mention, is where we came to his office to negotiate a contract to purchase a property in Washington Heights in Manhattan. Today, Washington Heights, which is North of Columbia University and goes up to the George Washington Bridge, is going through a slow but steady gentrification. In 1988, when we met to buy a property in the “Heights,” like many areas of the City, there were bad Landlords who took advantage of tenants due to their greed. We insisted that the attorney for the seller include protections in the contract as to issues related to the Owner’s problems with not providing services to the tenants. The attorney said, there were no problems with the tenants. We responded and asked for an update on the tenant strike in the building. The attorney said there was no such strike, there was never a strike and the tenants are happy. He said we were making up things to get a lower price We then showed him a picture that we took, the day before, of a bed sheet hanging out of the window on the fourth floor of the building stating “Tenant Strike. Landlord belongs in Jail.” The denials continued by counsel to the Seller, until we just threw our hands in the air and walked away.
My final story for this article is about my own counsel. We were in a contract negotiation with another seller and his counsel, also for a property in Washington Heights, which we eventually purchased. The Seller’s attorney and my attorney started fighting over language in the first paragraph. At first, it wasn’t hostile, but there was no give or take by either counsel. They agreed to skip ahead and come back to the first paragraph. This unfortunately, did not work. They argued as much over the second paragraph, with even more hostility. After about 30 minutes of yelling, my attorney got up, said he couldn’t deal with this, and headed out the door. Usually, it’s the client that gets up and walks out at a stalemate, never the counsel. This was a first for me. I ran after him to the elevator. He told me he would find me a replacement from his firm and left.
We re-scheduled, the replacement attorney was up against the same attorney for the Seller. However, the Seller was anxious to sell and told his attorney to take it easy. The contract was signed, and the deal closed.
I will be back with more Crazy Landlords and a few more Crazy attorneys.