Following up on last week’s column, I have great news and “annoying” news. The great news is single mom, C Smith, won her court case and will not be evicted from the Santa Monica apartment she’s lived in for the last 14 years. Apparently the moral arc of the universe may be bent toward justice. At least this time.
The annoying news is that, the day after my column ran, I received a rather unpleasant e-mail from landlord Zigi Dromy’s lawyer. Michael Simkin, who practices in Century City, without so much as a hello, warned that if I wasn’t careful he would sue me and the Daily Press “in a heartbeat.” Isn’t that charming? And lawyers wonder why their image is a notch above used car salesmen. (My apologies to used car salesman.)
I wanted to remind Mr. Simkin there’s a reason the First Amendment was first. I was about to tell him to stick the e-mail where the sun doesn’t shine when I realized that made no sense at all since e-mails are electronic.
I was somewhat comforted by recalling Shakespeare’s line in Henry VI, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” (I wonder if Mr. Simkin will sue Shakespeare?)
The character that uttered the Bard’s famous line sounds more “Sopranos” than Shakespeare. “Dick the Butcher” was as evil as his name implied, giving rise to speculation that Shakespeare was actually praising lawyers and underscoring the important role they play in society (as opposed to sending “mine is bigger than yours” e-mails).
Over the phone, Mr. Simkin portrayed Mr. Dromy as landlord-of-the-year material and Ms. Smith as an ungrateful tenant, even though she’s paid over $144,000 in rent. He pointed out that Mr. Dromy had even replaced the carpet as though this made him Mother Teresa. I pointed out that in Santa Monica a landlord isn’t a candidate for sainthood for replacing the carpet every 14 years.
Later that afternoon, Mr. Simkin e-mailed me a letter from a former tenant of Mr. Dromy’s whose family moved out, allegedly fearing for their safety because of Smith. In 2007 Ms. Smith suffered a stroke and had four brain surgeries. Apparently, beneath that fragile exterior she’s a regular Mike Tyson.
I asked if I could be put in touch with the letter’s author. Simkin said, “Go knock on some doors, you’re a journalist.” (Ouch!) I’m inherently lazy but feeling insulted, I went a knocking.
The most puzzling sight at 420 Raymond has to be the lineup of old shower doors attached to a fence. I was told they’ve been there for years. And apparently they aren’t that attached because some crashed on a tenant’s car.
As for the family that moved out, it appears they were unhappy from the beginning. They just had too many kids for that tiny two bedroom, one bath apartment. (I’m told they’re now in a three bedroom house in Culver City.)
The mom had even asked advice from other tenants on how to get out of her lease without penalty. Determined, I finally reached her by phone. She greeted me with a few F-bombs and hung up. To steal a line from Tommy Lasorda, “This job is not that G.D. easy!”
After the trial, Mr. Simkin concluded that both sides won: Smith got to stay but Mr. Dromy got his back rent. This ignores that Smith was desperately trying to pay the rent all along. Factoring Mr. Simkin’s fees, I have a hunch Mr. Dromy is in the red. What a senseless exercise. Reminds me of a certain war I know.
Kudos, however, to Dan Marquez, Smith’s lawyer. After taking her case, Marquez pointed to a big jar. “That’s my worry jar. From now on you’re to stop worrying, that’s my job.” Smith broke down in tears. Did I mention the moral arc of the universe is bent toward justice?
In doing research for this, I was put in touch with Rent Control Board Member and prominent landlord Robert Kronovet, who’s deeply interested in better tenant-landlord relations.
Mr. Kronovet was bothered by a number of factors in Smith’s case, including that, while a three-day notice was issued, neither Mr. Dromy nor his manager checked on Smith’s health. He’s of the opinion, especially in this economy, that tenants are the landlord’s customers, not serfs.
But maybe some good has come from this. A few days ago Smith handed her March rent check to the manager and received a receipt. I have no idea why that’s such a breakthrough but, then again, I’m still in the dark about the shower doors. (I’d include a photo, but I’d probably get sued.) Which brings me back to Michael Simkin, Esq., who claims to have a great sense of humor. I have a feeling today’s column may test that.
If he isn’t too busy dodging a summons, Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com.