Hedge-Fund Founder Accused of Leasing Rat-Filled, Sewer-Scented N.Y. Townhouse

(Bloomberg) -- A real estate developer who rented an upscale Manhattan townhouse is suing its owner, hedge fund manager Thomas Sandell, claiming the property was overrun with rats and reeked from a sewer problem.

Joseph Chetrit said he has been paying $65,000 a month to rent a property on East 64th Street for about two years. During that time he hired a rat exterminator and had to move out temporarily for plumbing repairs, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in Manhattan state court.

Sandell, founder of Sandell Asset Management Corp., purchased the townhouse in 2005 for $30 million, and put it on the rental market for $120,000 per month in 2016, according to The Real Deal. The property is owned by Sandell’s firm Medusa 64 LLC.

Lorraine Nadel, a lawyer for Sandell, said Chetrit’s suit is "absolutely meritless."

"We’re going to prove them false in court," she said.

The mansion, near Central Park, was once owned by Gianni Versace, according to The Real Deal.

Rats were found in the ceiling panels in the breakfast room, maid’s quarters, service hallway, pantry, and the heating and cooling system, according to the complaint. Replacing decrepit sewer pipes required drilling through marble flooring and weeks of inconveniences, Chetrit alleged.

"This is a pathetic situation that has compromised my well-being [and] the well being of my husband & staff!!" Chetrit’s wife, Nancy, emailed to Sandell’s attorneys in August 2017, according to the complaint. "I’m not sure if Tom Sandell finds this amusing, but I do not!!"

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.