Facing Eviction, Village Scandal Sues Landlord For $10 Million

IMG_1024Lauren Carol Smith Wendy Barrett last year.

If Village Scandal doesn’t pay almost $22,000 in back rent today, the hat shop will get the boot.

Thursday, a civil court judge ordered Wendy Barrett, the embattled owner of the East Seventh Street store, to pay the sum by 5 p.m. today, or face eviction.

But Ms. Barrett insists she already paid it – or that she tried to, anyway. “Rent was deliberately sent back to me by A.J. Clarke,” she said, referring to the management company she believes has unfairly kept her in delinquency.

“I’ve been running around, trying to get the money. I haven’t slept since last week,” she said through tears this afternoon. “I have to have the money today.”

In response to the potential eviction, Ms. Barrett is suing her landlord and the management company for $10 million.

IMG_0998Lauren Carol Smith Village Scandal

The situation goes back to 2004. Last year, Ms. Barrett’s landlord was demanding $63,257 in back rent and real estate taxes that had been accruing since then. Her lawyer at the time told The Local that her landlord had backtracked on waiving taxes, hence the figure. Since last fall, the sum has risen to at least $130,000, said her current attorney, Jonathan Zimet.

Mr. Zimet said his client had paid her rent — totaling $21,840 — every month from Dec. 2010 to July 2011, but the landlord returned her checks, citing the ongoing court case. Ms. Barrett is also claiming she hasn’t been credited for $37,000 she paid in real estate taxes, according to the lawyer.

Eventually, a judge ordered that the landlord accept her checks; she is current on her rent from August 2011 to the present, Mr. Zimet said.

Ms. Barrett believes her landlord’s alleged pattern of returning checks while demanding rent amounts to harassment. On Oct. 11, she filed a lawsuit suing her landlord and management company for $10 million. She believes she is owed the amount “for having paid all the taxes and rent for which I am sued each month in court as being unpaid. I have been treated savagely and lied to,” she told The Local.

IMG_1014Lauren Carol Smith Ms. Barrett sorting through a sheaf of legal papers
last year.

In addition, she said, her landlord and management company – neither of which would comment for this story – have damaged her reputation. “They called me a bum and told me I never paid taxes or rent. They were going to put me on the street,” she said. In court papers, she accuses the companies of “breach of contract, fraud, misappropriation of funds, unjust enrichment, malfeasance, abuse of process and judicial procedure, harassment, extortion, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation and larceny on the part of the Defendants, jointly and severally.”

Ms. Barrett said she just wants a shot at showing she’s paid her rent. “I just want a fair trial. It’s all I’ve wanted. It’s not about tenants and landlords, about record keeping, or payments. It’s really about a con,” she said. “I don’t want anything else but justice.”