In case you needed another reason to dislike Robert Durst, he is not only [allegedly] a murderous and animal-decapitating sociopath, he is also a slumlord.
Though Durst’s name appears on very few NYC real estate transactions over the past decade, he has reportedly been busy buying and selling via BCB Property Management, a business founded in 2008 by his second wife, Debrah Charatan (more below).
Based on public records from various City agencies, here is what emerges:
- BCB’s transactions involve at least 66 multi-family buildings in New York City amounting to a total transaction volume of over $500M.
- BCB’s activities have generated a at least $81M of profit.
- BCB seems to be a pretty nasty landlord, racking up over 1,000 violations and public complaints, and at least 16 housing-related lawsuits.
Map of BCB’s Real Estate Transactions
Click on a building to view purchase and sale information, as well as a list of complaints, violations, and lawsuits involving the property.
BCB’s Investment Strategy
BCB’s current portfolio is comprised of at least 33 properties, which were purchased for a combined price of $360M.
BCB has also “flipped” an additional 33 properties, purchasing them for a combined price of $83M and selling them for $164M, netting a profit of $81M and a return on investment of nearly 100%.
These numbers do not account for acquisition costs, transfer tax, renovation costs, etc. But in any case, BCB looks to have made a extremely high return. What was their strategy?
From the BCB website:
Prior to acquisition, a typical BCB Property is undermanaged with ample upside. Through a combination of efficient management, construction prowess, upstanding principals, and a keen eye for value, BCB prides itself on uncovering unique acquisition opportunities.
At least the first sentence is accurate. All of BCB’s purchases look to have been rent stabilized buildings that were in pretty bad shape at the time of acquisition.
Unfortunately, if the tenants were expecting conditions to improve under BCB ownership, they were likely disappointed.
As landlord, BCB has racked up over 200 housing maintenance complaints and more than 800 violations, and was named in at least 16 housing-related court cases, 8 of which were brought by the City’s Housing Ligation Division. Some examples from the text of the complaints:
“I want to report the only elevator in the residential building is not work[ing] and has not been for almost a month.”
– 1059 Union Street
“Boiler has not been working for the past month.”
– 333 East 33rd Street
Consistent with news reports and court records (e.g. rent overcharge lawsuit) , it seems BCB uses a predatory strategy that is unfortunately very common: buy a dilapidated rent-stabilized building, drive the tenants out, and renovate the units with a view to re-leasing them at a much higher rate.
Landlords harassing rent-stabilized tenants is nothing new, and the motivation is obvious. Though until going through these numbers, I had not appreciated just how profitable it was.
How much involvement did Durst himself have in these transactions?
Other than one 2012 sale in which his name appears, buying two buildings from BCB / Charatan, with BCB sustaining a $5M loss, Durst’s name does not show up in any of these transactions. Here is the relevant historical timeline as reported by Newsweek:
- 2002: Just before his trial for the murder of Morris Black, Durst signs a power of attorney, granting Charatan complete control over his fortune (the doc is on file with the Dept of Finance and you can view it here: Robert Durst Power of Attorney).
- 2006: Durst receives a $60M settlement in exchange for conceding his rights to the Durst Organization fortune.
- In 2008, Charatan founds BCB Property Management.
Other bizarre records: “Woof Woof”, mortgages in Yonkers, a ponzi scheme, and a love triangle
Searching for this information about BCB also turned up some other records that I thought were too strange not to include.
- Some properties were purchased using multiple LLCs, which is unusual since they all appear to be owned by BCB. The LCCs are also oddly named, including “Woof Woof LLC” (this one might be cute if it wasn’t for Durst’s penchant for animal mutilation), “Flan LLC,” and “Second Sibling LLC” (perhaps a reference to Durst’s resentment toward his brother?).
- There are records showing Charatan operating as a mortgagee, lending against homes in New York City and Yonkers.
- Charatan individually appears in many lawsuits about a range of issues, including a 1998 court case that relates to The Bennett Funding Group’s billion dollar ponzi scheme (more info here).
- It is public record that despite being married to Durst, Charatan is currently living with one of Durst’s Lawyers, a man named Steven Holm. Charatan and Holm also share a charitable family foundation Charatan/Holm Family foundation (prior to 2011, it was in her name only). And in a synagogue newsletter her name is listed as “Mrs Debrah Charatan Holm.”
Although she only appears in The Jinx for brief moments, Debrah Charatan may be the biggest mystery in this whole story.
12-Apr Update: I have received a lot of great responses on Twitter. Here are a few:[tweet 587066295889211393 hide_thread=’true’] [tweet 586027211351728128 hide_thread=’true’] [tweet 586272740560232451 hide_thread=’true’] [tweet 586656478792028160 hide_thread=’true’] [tweet 586368729744670720 hide_thread=’true’] [tweet 586618630785273857 hide_thread=’true’]
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