After plunking down more than $1 million to rent a Miami Beach waterfront home, the wife of a former HFZ Capital principal is alleging the house was uninhabitable and filled with rats’ nests, moldy bathrooms and a termite infestation.
Ranee Bartolacci is now seeking more than $9 million in damages from the Miami Beach landlord, Mathieu Massa, and Miami Beach luxury broker Julian Johnston, for allegedly misleading her into renting the house. She alleges they also backed out of an agreement to reimburse her for more than $650,000 in repairs to the property.
Her suit, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, is the latest legal volley in the strange situation involving the seven-bedroom, 7,500-square-foot rental house on the Sunset Islands. Bartolacci is living in the home with her family, including her husband, Nir Meir. She signed the lease in April and received access to the property in June.
Bartolacci paid for one year of rent up front, court records show. If Bartolacci paid the asking rent of $150,000 a month, that would amount to $1.8 million.
Massa and Johnston each declined to comment.
In August, Bartolacci’s landlord filed a lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleging Bartolacci made a series of illegal alterations to the property, ranging from replacing appliances and furniture to having an exotic bearded dragon as a pet. In total, the landlord alleges more than a dozen violations of the lease.
The landlord’s allegations suggest that Bartolacci was behaving as an owner, not a renter. Bartolacci did not return a request to comment nor did her attorney.
The landlord, a company led by Massa, alleges she changed the locks and security system, removed about $750,000 worth of furniture, removed and changed pool equipment, and installed a new wood dock, air conditioning, trees and planters. She also allegedly replaced the natural grass with fake grass, changed the fountain to a fish pond, installed a jet ski floating deck and more, according to the complaint.
Massa, who is CEO of Mr. Hospitality Miami and Massa Investment Group, alleged in his complaint that the damage inflicted by Bartolacci could be “staggering.”
Bartolacci moved to Miami Beach with Meir, who left the New York development firm HFZ Capital in December. HFZ Capital is now in financial ruin and Meir is being pursued by HFZ’s investors and lenders who claim he personally guaranteed loans for the firm.
Meir also faces a lawsuit from HFZ, which calls him a “sociopath” and alleges he stole millions of dollars from the company to fund his exorbitant lifestyle, including the Miami Beach pad. Meir’s lawyers have strongly denied these allegations. Meir is not named in the Miami-Dade litigation, nor does his name appear on a copy of the lease that was attached to the court documents.
In Bartolacci’s countersuit filed last week, she alleges the home was in a “shocking state of disrepair.” She alleges the bay views were not viewable “through the damaged and cloudy (nearly opaque) windows.” Bartolacci also alleges the “custom gourmet kitchen with Sub-Zero & Wolf appliances” was unusable, and the sliding glass doors did not actually slide and leaked water when it rained.
After Bartolacci moved in, she alleges Massa and Johnston met her at the property and acknowledged the “myriad” issues, with the intention to fix them. They allegedly blamed the previous tenant, from whom Massa kept an $85,000 security deposit, for the problems, Bartolacci claims.
Johnston allegedly promised, repeatedly on follow-up phone calls and in writing, that the items on Bartolacci’s punch list would be addressed and reimbursed.
Bartolacci also alleges that Massa won’t credit her for rent paid for the six weeks she had work done to the property prior to moving in. He also refuses to pay for her hotel stay “as previously promised,” according to the complaint.
The hotel was not named in the Miami-Dade lawsuit. But a separate lawsuit filed by HFZ Capital in New York against Meir alleges the couple spent $50,000 at the ultra-luxury Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club in Surfside before their Sunset Islands home was ready for move-in. That same lawsuit also alleges the couple spent $223,000 on a wine bill in August. The Four Seasons is among the most expensive new hotels to be built in South Florida, with daily rates that can run into thousands of dollars.
Bartolacci allegedly signed the lease for the house sight unseen, which is not uncommon in today’s market. The inventory of luxury single-family homes for rent or for sale is slim, and buyers and renters are known to get into bidding wars, especially for properties on the waterfront.