It’s common for lawyers to apply every trick in the book when trying a case to secure a win for their clients. David Rozenholc, the king of tenant law, is known to employ every trick in the book, stretching the hearings out for years.
Not surprisingly, he has the wealth to back his talk, winning various multi-million-dollar settlements for his clients. As an opposing counsel, David is a tenacious bare-knuckle fighter who takes no hostages. As a champion of tenant’s rights and the mortal enemy of corrupt landlords everywhere, he’s not afraid of getting his hands dirty and has earned every bit of his fierce reputation.
Every Hero Needs an Origin Story
David Rozenholc was born in Kyrgyztan to Polish Jews back in 1945. He and his family moved back to Poland after the war, then to Israel in 1948, where David spent most of his childhood. He moved to America in 1960.
Born to a family of ‘slaughterers’, David Rozenholc’s family were able to afford a modest education for their son. Eventually, David graduated from Rutgers School of Law and immediately started working for nonprofits that provided free legal services to residents of South Bronx in the late 60s and early 70s. It’s here that David first cut his teeth in tenant law, of which New York landlords were notorious of breaking. In his first years as a tenant law expert, David Rozenholc saw just how bad rent inflation was in the city, especially after construction and vacancy rates in New York City went to a then-all-time low in 1969.
Despite the Rent Stabilization Law of 1969 and the Local Law 30 of 1970, many New York landlords flouted the rules and continued to overprice and overcharge their tenants, not to mention property developers that would drive up prices of rent in order to make up their investment. None of this, of course, sat well with David Rozenholc, who went on a campaign of going after some of the city’s most notorious landlords and the biggest real estate developers without batting an eyelash or showing any fear.
A Consummate Brawler
With more than 40 years of prosecuting experience under his belt, David Rozenholc doesn’t back down from a fight. He will take on any developer that threats to infringe on the right of his tenants. He’s famed for having forced a real estate company to pay an impressive $25 million for two tenants. The two were residents in a small apartment building that was in the way of their almost half-a-billion-dollar site in Hudson Yards.
Tishman Speyer, the realtor in question, chose to settle instead of facing David in a court of law. They made what has come to be known as one of the biggest payouts to holdout tenants to the king of tenant law. It’s reported that David received a third of that settlement. That was back in 2015, but his multi-million winnings date back as early as 2005.
But for David Rozenholc, it’s not just about going head-to-head in epic David-and-Goliath cases. He knew that, for him and his small-time clients to win, he needed more than just the brute force of sophistry. He needed to get creative.
A Creative Solution to a Rampant Problem
Early on in his career, David realized that he could make a name for himself by tweaking a few things when representing tenants. He was quick to recognize and calculate the value of tenant holdout in the early 1990s. He figured that if developers were willing to invest colossal sums of money in a project, they could at least be generous in compensating the people.
He would find the total amount of the upcoming projects and use that to calculate what moving the tenant was worth to the developer. Of the earliest victories was over none other than Donald Trump in the early 1980s when he successfully blocked tenant evictions. His unique approach certainly paid off, earning him tens of millions throughout his legal career.
But beyond the money, David Rozenholc also gained something invaluable: the respect of his clients. David wasn’t your typical lawyer: former clients of his mention that, in person, and despite his intimidating reputation, the King of Tenant Law is more like his subjects in that he is down-to-earth, spoke plainly, and most importantly, empathized greatly with their concerns.
For David, it’s not about the money: it’s about the tenants.
A Distinctive Advantage
Unlike the development companies, David’s clients were in no particular hurry and had not tight deadlines to meet. As such, he was free to engage in just about any trick to drag out the court proceedings. He once forced a developer to abandon a project after four years of battling David in court. He found creative ways to come up with arguments that made these cases drag out. For instance, he once spent hours interviewing an engineer about a single structural column much to the chagrin of the opposing counsel.
The king of tenant law knows how the system works, racking up wins along the way. These proceedings generate an incredible amount of paperwork that overwhelms even the best of legal firms. Stretching out the hearings often causes many of the companies to fold up and settle instead of engaging in an endless legal battle.
Good Guys Don’t Always Finish Last
David Rozenholc now lives in a $30-million flat on the Upper Eastside, which is strange for a real estate lawyer who represents tenants. But Rozenholc’s compassion for his fellow man was crucial into his development of a multi-million-dollar business model that made both him and his clients wealthy.
For real estate lawyers, representing landlords and developers was almost-always the most lucrative career path, and it made sense; both parties are usually backed up by corporate bigwigs with nigh-bottomless wallets while tenants were usually loosely-organized middle-class folk with little-to-no funds to even pay a pro-bono lawyer’s coffee. For most real estate lawyers, they saw tenant’s rights cases the way vultures saw a carcass: easy pickings that could earn them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But where other lawyers saw a disadvantage, David Rozenholc saw an opportunity: instead of seeing tenants as powerless clients, he saw them as being in a unique situation where they (both him and the tenants) stand to earn, not just hundreds of thousands, but millions.
By employing all of the techniques he learned in both law school and with his life experiences, David Rozenholc has made himself and his clients rich off the back of parasitic landlords and developers, ensuring that the balance of power between tenants and landlords in New York is kept for now.