Paula Rosado normally doesn’t rent out her Hamptons home in the off-season. That’s family time. But last October, Rosado, a marketing professional from the New York fashion world, was approached by a sure-bet tenant who was eager to rent her modest, 1890s, shingled three-bedroom Sag Harbor home through the end of April—a local Realtor named Jonathan Davis.
When it comes to Hamptons real estate, Davis—who currently has at least $70.5 million in sales to his name as an agent for the luxury realty group Nest Seekers International—is descended from royalty. He’s the 30-year-old son of Tim Davis, a Hamptons real-estate titan with more than $4 billion in sales to his credit. So it was with that in mind that Rosado signed over her house to the bearded young Davis, who offered to write up the lease himself. Normally Rosado would never let a tenant handle that task, but why not? He was a professional (the son of that Davis). And besides, “I’m a local,” he told her. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Then fall turned to winter, and winter turned to the coronavirus—and therein lies the hitch. Suddenly, countless Manhattan families like the Rosados—who had converted their living room to an office and their kitchen to a “remote-learning site” for their six-year-old son—were desperate to flee the city and the virus. And Realtors such as Davis were waiting. As he told Fox News on March 27, his office had closed $2,500,000 worth of rentals in that month alone, a 30 to 40 percent increase from the same period a year prior. “It’s a very proactive time,” Davis said.
Rosado as well started counting the days until the warmer weather, since she knew the return of the high season would bring a higher rent for her home. Indeed, one potential tenant had already offered her $55,000 to rent it from Memorial Day through Labor Day. With the lease approaching its end, in early March Rosado reached out to Davis to let him know his deposit on the utilities was low and would not cover through to the end of April. Rosado recalls that a month passed before he responded, and when he did, he said he’d pay off the utilities with his final rent payment on April 30. Rosado wasn’t thrilled, but with the lease nearly up, she let it slide.
“I’m a local,” he told her. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Then came late April. Not only was Rosado trapped in Manhattan under lockdown but her 14-year-old godson was in the I.C.U. with the coronavirus and heart failure. By then Rosado had received word that two German shepherds were tearing around her carefully tended lawns. Since pets were not allowed on the lease, she called Davis to ask for an explanation. Davis told her they were emotional-support animals. (Later, Davis’s lawyer sent documentation of the dogs’ training and certification as emotional-support and service animals.) She asked to see photos of the house to check for any damage, but, according to Rosado, Davis failed to send any current photos.
On April 30, still reeling from her godson’s ordeal, she returned to her Sag Harbor house to do a walk-through before Davis moved out. What she found was absolute squalor.
Huge dog cages hulked over a living-room rug that had been gnawed to pieces. Windows were smashed throughout the house, the kitchen walls were splattered with food, and a cabinet door had been ripped from the island counter. The couches were stained and, according to Rosado, stinking with urine. The origin of the urine, dog or human, is unclear—Davis did not respond to Air Mail’s request for comment about the damages. A bathroom door was split in half and had fallen off its hinges. The porcelain of the bathtub was ground raw, as if somebody had been crushing stones into gravel in its basin. Holes pocked the walls, and the wood floors were riddled with scratches, while a wall of sneakers climbed higher than the windows in the master bedroom. Down in the dining room, the Rosados’ art had been stripped from the walls and replaced with oversize Wolf of Wall Street posters.
One potential tenant had already offered her $55,000 to rent the home from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
“He thought it was funny,” Rosado said. “He was smirking during the walk-through.”
She was, to say the least, stunned. Looking around at the carnage that was her house, she noticed that one of her two expensive wicker chairs had been chewed beyond recognition. The other was missing. When Rosado confronted Davis, things went something like this:
Rosado: Where is the other chair?
Davis: There was only one.
Rosado: You’re lying.
Davis: That’s harassment. I’m calling the police.
Davis then called the police to report Paula Rosado for harassment, and told her he wasn’t going to be leaving her home.
In response, the Rosados filed a police report against Davis for the damages and issued him a 30-days-to-vacate notice, but she found herself unable to evict her wealthy tenant turned squatter. That’s because back in March, during the depths of the coronavirus/job-loss meltdown, Governor Cuomo, in order to protect renters, issued an executive order to halt all evictions in the state for a period of 90 days. Due to the wording of Cuomo’s order, Rosado had no teeth with which to remove Davis.
The unfolding nightmare was not Rosado’s alone. Soon, reports began circulating about similar situations of squatters across New York abusing Cuomo’s order. To ameliorate the situation, the governor modified the eviction moratorium while extending it, stipulating in a May 7 executive order that the ban applied only to those “eligible for unemployment insurance or benefits or otherwise facing financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The amendment, which came into effect today, June 20, seems to have worked. Davis, still gainfully employed with Nest Seekers (It’s a very proactive time!), packed up his Land Rover and vacated on the 10th.
“We put our life into that home. I’ve spent every penny on it. He’s just destroyed it,” Rosado said. “At a time when people are supposed to be coming together and helping each other, this doesn’t make sense. No time is it O.K. to be behaving like this, but even more so now.” Though Davis has finally vacated the house, Rosado says that no progress has been made in collecting back rent or compensation for the extensive damages to the property. According to Davis, in his only response to Air Mail’s requests for comment, he has “settled up” his rent (he also wished Air Mail a happy Father’s Day and did not reply to further questions), but Rosado says no agreement was reached on the ultimate amount due, and that she does not accept this payment as final. “What he has put our family through … we just want to resolve it, move on, and put this behind us. I just want our home back.”
In an August 2019 interview with Social Life magazine, Davis said that he models himself after the honesty and integrity of his father: “When you lead with that, it gives you credibility for years and years, so I think that’s what you have to start with: holding yourself accountable.”
As he told Rosado, He’s a local. He’s not going anywhere.
Alex Oliveira is an Associate Editor for air mail