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Tenant Sets Apartment on Fire during Eviction -- Reflections on What Could Have Been a Tragedy

September 2014:  This post originally appeared on the LandlordsNY blog, where Michelle Maratto Itkowitz is the legal expert.

The experience of owning a multifamily building in New York City can be described in many ways. It's ambitious, exciting, a ton of work, a big responsibility, lucrative, frustrating, interesting. Last week I was shockingly reminded, however, of how being a landlord can be, at times, unfortunately, downright dangerous.

I was waiting for Marshal Robert Renzulli to meet my associate at an important commercial judgment execution in Manhattan. I got an email that the Marshal would be delayed because he was at an eviction (not for one of my clients). Well, that happens. But no, he would be VERY delayed -- because the residential tenant he was evicting in Brooklyn set the apartment on fire during the course of the eviction! Thank G-d no one was ultimately hurt. That last statement is due in large part to the amazingly heroic actions of Marshal Robert Renzulli.

Marshal Robert Renzulli is a relatively new New York City Marshal. He was formerly a Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney. With that coveted position on his résumé, he could have done lots of things with his career. He decided to serve the City, and took on the awesome responsibility of a New York City Marshal's badge.

Early Thursday afternoon he went to do a residential eviction. He found a man in the subject apartment. Marshal Renzulli told the gentleman that he would have to leave the premises, an eviction was taking place. The gentleman said that he would not leave. It was a sad situation, but so far, not dramatic. Marshal Renzulli called for New York City Police Department assistance. The man then suddenly announced that he was, in fact, “Jesus Christ”, and just as suddenly produced a container of flammable fluid, poured it on his bed and lit it on fire, which immediately went up in flames. Luckily, no one was hurt because the property was equipped with a sprinkler system and because Marshal Renzulli stayed behind to make sure that everyone, even the crazy guy who set the building on fire, got out safely.

In your buildings, you house people. People have problems, as well as triumphs; pain, as well as joy. So, as a landlord, you are a custodian, of sorts, of human happiness and, sadly, of human anguish.

What lessons can we take from this story? I take the following.  READ MORE...

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