Times columnist ‘Hunt’ sued to return rent

Joyce Cohen, a newspaper columnist, had a few options when she started looking for an apartment, and… Business Insider reports that Cohen, the longtime real estate writer behind New York timesThe popular movie The Hunt and co-star Benjamin Meltzer seem to have found one of the happy endings their column specializes in, settling on a mid-priced Upper West Side subcontractor. Now they’re being sued by the couple who subletted that apartment—although, at least according to Insider reports, the Cohen-Meltzers are trying to get rid of what’s left of the sublet.

In the fall of 2020, Cohen and Meltzer, both of whom suffer from anaphylaxis, a condition of hypersensitivity to noise, sought a sublet while completing construction work outside their private apartment on the Upper West Side. They found a listing on Craigslist in November of an apartment being rented for $2,999 a month by Amit and Jasmine Matta (aka Jasmine Caprizzo), who had been out of town this long. The Meltzer-Cohens family has signed a two-year sub-lease that runs through mid-January 2023. (Full disclosure: I’ve been working with Cohen at times.)

In the lawsuit filed in New York state court, Matas claimed that the owner discovered the subcontractor and moved to evict everyone. Tenants in New York State are entitled to sublet their apartments, provided they inform the landlord in writing and provide information about the subtenant. Landlords can only refuse to sublet on reasonable grounds. But the landlord apparently did not authorize the subletting, sued both Matas and the sub-underwriters, and Matas attempted to stop legal action against them by asking Cohen and Meltzer to leave.

They didn’t go – the couple, according to the suit, had already installed plexiglass acoustic partitions and modified the doorbell to make the space quiet enough for their needs. Instead, they started paying rent into escrow – tenants are also advised to do so during rent disputes. According to the lawsuit, the couple’s lawyer also told the Matas family that instead of paying $2,999 as the terms of the subletting set out, the couple would agree to the statutory rent of $2,558 a month. Matas was not happy about it and accused the couple of having a “plan to live for free,” according to Business Insider. But Cohen’s lawyer, Jeffrey McAdams, told the New York newspaper Mail that “after renting this apartment on an emergency basis to escape construction-related noise injuries, Joyce and Ben discovered that visiting tenants were renting to them under false pretenses. The landlord stopped accepting rent and the tenants now live in their condominium.”

He added that Cohen and Meltzer are still depositing money into that escrow account. “On my advice, for the past two months they have put their rent payments on hold because we tried to settle with Jasmine and Amit, who admit that they are subletting their apartment without the landlord’s permission. The tenants refuse to settle and instead continue a constant pattern of harassment and threats to harm Joyce and Ben.” (Jasmine Mata allegedly threatened to “run through the apartment with a horn disc,” which Matas denied when they spoke to BI.) Cohen declined to comment, and Matas’ family could not be reached this afternoon.

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