“What?? You don’t want my case??”: Why I Stopped Doing Buyouts

A lot of tenants approach us with the following common facts. I’ve lived in my rent stabilized apartment forever, I’m ready to move, and I’m wondering if I can get a buyout. Or, my landlord has sued me in housing court, and I want to fight it, but what I really want is a buyout.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with getting a buyout. Tenants who get buyouts are in possession of a valuable asset they have fought to maintain. Often, they’ve suffered through harassment, poor living conditions, frivolous lawsuits, nasty behavior, and all other kinds of mistreatment, just to fight to remain in their homes. It’s not a sign of weakness or opportunism to say “I’ve had enough”. Everyone should live their life in the way that is best for them.

But I like fighting to win.

I don’t like fighting a case when the tenant secretly wants to settle. I don’t like having to pretend my client is happy to stay in the apartment when he or she is ready to go. I don’t like having to beg for what feels like scraps from a huge multi-million dollar developer – and, after all, the landlord certainly isn’t obligated to offer any money.

Many lawyers love buyouts. Often, it’s pretty easy money. And I couldn’t tell you how many times I go into court and hear my adversary say “everybody has a price – just name it”. But, to me, the thrill of being able to tell a landlord that money can’t buy everything is worth more.

Needless to say, it doesn’t hurt my clients to have adversaries know that we are not fighting our cases to get a buyout. We are fighting for a dismissal and attorney’s fees and that’s where we’re going to end up. I’ve been able to persuade some adversaries to give up on a case just by conveying that tenacity.

In short: if you are looking for a buyout, I have some excellent colleagues to refer. But if you are coming to me, you are coming because you want to fight and win.

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