There is a Webster’s Dictionary definition of “hairy” that goes like this. “Slang: problematic, difficult, distressing, harrowing”. In the New York City real estate community, when an owner, investor, lender, or prospective purchaser refers to a building or apartment as “hairy”, or as “having some hair on it”, they mean that some combination of the below is true for the apartment(fn1):

  • The landlord is not legally entitled to collect rent and has not collected rent for a long time.
  • There are few or no records (leases, registrations, etc.) or the existing records are riddled with bad news or are inconsistent with each other.
  • The apartment has many with HPD or DOB violations, or DHCR rent freeze orders.
  • The apartment is the subject of protracted litigation, sometimes in multiple forums (and it is not going well for landlord!)
  • The is a 7A administrator or other type of receiver in place.
  • Communication and trust have broken down between the existing occupants and the current owner or manager.

Michelle Itkowitz is often consulted by landlords on hairy apartments. Michelle has developed a legal product for these situations, a scope of work for working with clients in these situations, it is called “Clean Up Crew”.

The scope of work for a Clean Up Crew service is as follows:

  • Establishing a defensible, legal rent, even if it is low, through negotiation with opposing counsel, and re-establishing the flow of rent.
  • Negotiating overcharge and legal fee liability and ending the continuing liability therefor.
  • Getting the leasing and registrations in perfect order.
  • Arranging access and removing all violations and rent freeze orders.
  • Global settlement of all litigation.
  • Begin to reestablish trust and a healthy landlord and tenant relationship.

Sometimes when prospective clients come to Michelle seeking trial or appellate services for a hairy apartment, Michelle takes one look at the situation and says, “I am neither trying this case nor perfecting your appeal because this case is simply unwinnable. The problem is that either your lawyers have never had the courage to tell you that, or they are not keen enough to know, or you are not keen enough to listen.” In those cases, Michelle is only willing to offer the Clean Up Crew service. More often, however, prospective clients understand that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and not getting a positive result. Those prospects are actively seeking the Clean Up Crew service. Frequently people come to Michelle for the Clean Up Crew service because lenders or investors are frustrated with an overlong beep-shows regarding an apartment, and they are insisting that the owner arrive at a resolution.

Michelle bills hourly for the Clean Up Crew service.


fn1. Hereinafter we are just going to refer to a single apartment; but if all the apartments in the building share these characteristics, then the whole building is “hairy”.