The New York Times housekeeper is being sued by her landlord over charges of $35,000 in unpaid rent.
Joyce Cohen, who writes the hit series The Hunt, featuring the trials and tribulations of New Yorkers trying to navigate the city’s real estate swamp, was indicted in the New York Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Cohen and her husband, Benjamin Meltzer, are accused of subletting an Upper West Side apartment when their own house was two blocks away near another house 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 a quiet place, as Cohen suffers from hyperacusis – a condition of extreme sensitivity to sound, which forces her to wear industrial-grade hearing protection when she leaves the house.
The original tenants, Amit and Jasmine Matta, moved to another property they owned because 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 the owner of the West 72nd Street building was unaware that it was being sublet.
Joyce Cohen, a housing reporter, is being sued along with her husband on charges of $35,000 in unpaid rent
Cohen and her husband Benjamin Meltzer both suffer from hyperacusis, which means extreme sensitivity to sound. When construction work started near their house, they had to move temporarily
Cohen is pictured with her cat. The New York Times housing reporter is now being sued along with her husband for failing to pay rent for a subtenant
When the landlord found out, in August 2021, the Mattas said they asked Cohen and Meltzer to move out, but claim the couple declined.
“Defendant’s conduct is rich in irony and hypocrisy, since the rent that defendants refuse to pay is less than the current rental market value of Plaintiff’s home,” de Mattas wrote in the indictment.
The Mattas emphasize in their complaint, obtained by: Insiderthat Cohen and Meltzer, in their communication with them, showed extensive knowledge of the legal context when discussing how to handle the situation.
Cohen and Meltzer emailed the Mattas and said they would need to hire lawyers to prevent the Mattas from being evicted, and said they would pay the legal fees.
“Hi Amit,” Cohen wrote.
“We have read the documents carefully. Your landlord plans to evict you.
“Anything you communicate to the building can and will be used against you and us.
“This situation calls for professional legal help. Ben and I hire a lawyer. The lawyer should be the only one communicating with the building.
“We’ll cover the attorney’s fee.”
The Mattas said they offered to work with Cohen and Meltzer to find a solution, on the condition that Cohen and Meltzer move, but the couple refused to budge.
The building on the Upper West Side is leased by the Mattas and sublet by Cohen and her husband. Now the Mattas want the couple to leave
Cohen is in the picture with her hearing protection
The Matta’s claim the couple subsequently stopped paying rent: the couple insist they’ve “paid rent all along,” with the money deposited in an escrow account.
The Mattas further insist that Cohen and Meltzer then made an “attempt to extort the plaintiffs into paying the defendants to leave.”
They cite an email from Cohen and Meltzer’s attorney stating that the couple will leave if $15,000 in compensation is paid.
Cohen told Insider she was not allowed to discuss the lawsuit.
A New York Times representative said the company was aware of the lawsuit and is investigating.
“I really didn’t want to do this,” Amit Matta told Insider. “I held out as far as I could.”