The New York Times’s housing columnist is being sued by her landlord over allegations of $35,000 in unpaid rent.
Joyce Cohen, who writes the popular series The Hunt, featuring the trials and tribulations of New Yorkers attempting to navigate the city’s real estate swamp, was sued on Tuesday in New York Supreme Court.
Cohen and her husband, Benjamin Meltzer, are accused of subletting an apartment on the Upper West Side while their own home two blocks away was near another being renovated, and then refusing to pay the rent.
The couple took over the apartment in November 2020, after it was advertised on Craigslist. They were looking for somewhere quiet, as Cohen suffers from hyperacusis – a condition of extreme sensitivity to noise, which forces her to wear industrial-grade ear protection when she leaves the home.
The original renters, Amit and Jasmine Matta, moved to another property they owned as it was more suitable for their daughter during the pandemic, and Jasmine was recovering from cancer.
Cohen and Meltzer agreed to pay $2,999 a month, on the understanding that it was a temporary arrangement and that the owner of the building on West 72nd Street was unaware it was being sublet.
Joyce Cohen, a housing reporter, is being sued with her husband over allegations of $35,000 in unpaid rent
Cohen and her husband Benjamin Meltzer both suffer from hyperacusis, meaning extreme sensitivity to noise. When building work began near their home they needed to move temporarily
Cohen is pictured with her cat. The New York Times’ housing reporter is now being sued with her husband, accused of failing to pay rent on a sublet
When the landlord found out, in August 2021, the Mattas say they asked Cohen and Meltzer to move out, but claim the couple refused.
‘Defendant’s behavior is rich with irony and hypocrisy since the rent Defendants refuse to pay is less than the current rental market value of Plaintiff’s Residence,’ the Mattas wrote in the complaint.
The Mattas emphasize in their complaint, obtained by Insider, that Cohen and Meltzer displayed extensive knowledge of the legal context in their communications with them, when discussing how to handle the situation.
Cohen and Meltzer emailed the Mattas and said they needed to get lawyers involved, to prevent the Mattas being evicted, and said they would pay the legal fees.
‘Hi Amit,’ Cohen wrote.
‘We read the documents carefully. Your landlord is planning to evict you.
‘Anything you communicate to the building can and will be used against you, and against us.
‘This situation calls for professional legal help. Ben and I are hiring a lawyer. The lawyer should be the only one communicating with the building.
‘We will cover the lawyer’s fee.’
The Mattas said that they offered to work with Cohen and Meltzer to find a solution, provided that Cohen and Meltzer moved out, but the couple refused to budge.
The building on the Upper West Side is let by the Mattas, and sublet by Cohen and her husband. Now the Mattas want the couple to leave
Cohen is pictured out and about with her hearing protection
The Mattas claim that the pair then stopped paying rent: the couple insist that they ‘have been paying rent all along’, with the money deposited into an escrow account.
The Mattas further insist that Cohen and Meltzer then launched an ‘attempt to extort Plaintiffs into paying the Defendants to leave’.
They cite an email from Cohen and Meltzer’s lawyer, stating that the couple will leave if $15,000 in compensation is paid.
Cohen told Insider she couldn’t discuss the lawsuit.
A New York Times representative said the company was aware of the lawsuit and was looking into it.
‘I really didn’t want to do this,’ Amit Matta told Insider. ‘I held on as far as possible.’