Joan Rivers Sued for Cutthroat Condo Conduct
Comedy legend Joan Rivers funded her $30 million New York City penthouse by skewering celebrities with her merciless wit, but her former neighbor says Rivers’ practical jokes are even more ruthless.
Elizabeth Hazan is suing Rivers for $15 million, accusing the comedian of engaging in dirty tricks in her role as president of the building’s condo board. Hazan says Rivers and her associates intercepted her mail, disconnected her cable and filled her door locks with glue. Rivers says Hazan is more than $200,000 behind on her condo fees.
In court filings, Hazan also said the building’s doorman denied her entry and threatened to call the police when she last attempted to access her apartment in September.
Hazan aired her grievances to the New York Daily News in a less legalistic fashion.
“Her problem with me is that I’m young, she’s old, I’m beautiful, she’s ugly,” Hazan said. “Without makeup she looks like the Joker in Batman.”
“It’s personal between her and me. It’s been that way ever since I moved in 2005. She spat in my face and called me a whore in front of my mother and brother when they were visiting me. Most mean woman you can imagine.”
Rivers, who referred to herself as the “scary lady upstairs” in a 2012 New York Times piece about her condo board presidency, has not responded publicly to Hazan’s taunts. But Rivers’ attorney Kevin Smith said a formal reply is forthcoming.
“I can tell you (the dispute) is over common charges, over $200,000 in unpaid fees and two prior actions pending,” Smith said. “We’re looking at the latest lawsuit and preparing a response.”
Darius Marzec, Hazan’s lawyer, disputed the $200,000 figure to the New York Daily Post and characterized the dispute as “just a question of accounting.”
Take the High Road
While Rivers’ alleged tactics may have been effective at keeping Hazan away from her building, they make for an ill-advised approach to dealing with a deadbeat. Cutting cables and gluing locks is “totally over the top” according to New Jersey attorney Scott B. Piekarsky.
Residents who don’t pay their fair share “can be a huge frustration for boards and residents, because after enough time, maintenance costs go up for everyone,” Piekarsky told Lawyers.com
Piekarsky said condo board attorneys will “try to use every trick in the book to try to collect on those who just aren’t paying their maintenance,” but they typically won’t condone some of the strong-arm tactics suggested by more aggressive board members.
“Can’t we shut the water off? Can’t we stop maintaining the lawn? You can’t just do these things. It’s a shame you have to afford services to them, but it would hurt all of the residents to do certain things.”
If Hazan’s allegations against Rivers are true, the actions “could amount to quasi-criminal acts of property damage,” Piekarsky said.
“The condo board attorney’s head must be spinning. The board may need to decide whether she needs to be sanctioned for creating what is potentially a liability for the association. It’s something that could hurt the board, the residents, the whole building.”
As for Hazan’s $15 million lawsuit, Piekarsky said it would probably be “laughed out of court here in New Jersey.”
“It just doesn’t rise to that level. But would I consider a criminal complaint for the property damage? Probably.”
Have you ever been subjected to extreme tactics from a condo or homeowners association? Have you ever been a part of an association that had to deal with a deadbeat resident? Tell us your story in the comments section below.