UPDATED, May 7, 2:30 p.m.: The Setai Miami Beach can’t kick out Sarah Lazow, but the luxury condo-hotel’s ownership is making the Los Angeles woman’s stay there an unpleasant one.
Lazow, who currently has a short-term lease for a privately-owned unit in one of the Setai’s upper floors, is banned from the property’s pool, bars, restaurants and from using any of the amenities, according to court documents in an ongoing lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
The hotel portions of the Setai, including the 90-room Art Deco Dempsey Vanderbilt Hotel at 2001 Collins Avenue, and some units in an adjoining 164-unit residential tower at 101 20th Street, are owned by the Nakash family that built the Jordache Jeans fashion empire.
Their company, Setai Hotel Acquisition LLC, wants a judge to determine that the ban against Lazow is legal. But she filed a counterclaim on April 7 asserting the Setai’s owners do not have the authority to prohibit hotel guests from utilizing the property’s common elements. Lazow alleges that the Setai removed her from the property due to a personal dispute she had with the condo-hotel’s general manager, Alex Furrer, with whom she had an intimate relationship.
In an amended complaint, Setai Hotel Acquisition accused Lazow of being “dressed inappropriately by appearing in a hotel restaurant in a transparent blouse making her breasts clearly visible” and successfully “pursued a sexual relationship” with Furrer, who declined comment.
Her attorney, Evan Berger, said that Setai Hotel Acquisition is selectively enforcing the rules against Lazow. Berger also said the Setai’s condominium declaration gives Setai Hotel Acquisition unlimited control and authority over the property’s common elements in violation of Florida condo association laws.
“The Setai is attempting to do everything possible so she can’t leave her room except when she has to leave the property,” Berger said. “They have towed her car on a number of occasions. And they have security following her around the building. They are constantly calling the police on her when she’s done nothing.”
Alan Reiss, the attorney for Setai Hotel Acquisition, declined comment while the litigation is pending.
According to the lawsuit Setai Hotel Acquisition filed against Lazow on March 1, she initially checked in on Oct. 2, 2020 and stayed until Jan. 12, when security informed her she was being kicked out for allegedly refusing to pay $102,595 she owed for part of her four-month stay. Setai Hotel Acquisition also alleges that Lazow used her “fortunate economic status to abuse, manipulate, extort, and embarrass plaintiff’s guests and staff,” according to the Setai’s complaint.
For instance, the Setai alleges Lazow falsely accused a housekeeping employee of theft after she “previously showered” the worker with “gifts, hugs and large tips.” Lazow also allegedly threatened another housekeeper whom she had gifted a $5,000 dog, the complaint states. Berger vehemently denied the accusations against his client.
On Feb. 20, Lazow signed a lease at the Setai Miami Beach for more than six months on a 30th floor unit owned by Synamon Real Estate LLC. When the condo-hotel’s managers found out Lazow had returned, Setai Hotel Acquisition notified her, and another attorney representing her at the time, that she was banned from using the amenities, according to Berger.
He said the condo-hotel’s declaration grants Setai Hotel Acquisition the right to set up and enforce the property’s rules and regulations and to maintain the common elements, which are typically under the purview of a condo association. In Lazow’s counterclaim, she asserts that Florida law requires that a condominium association maintain and operate the amenities contained in the hotel unit.
“By virtue of this, Setai Hotel Acquisition does not have authority to create and enforce the rules,” Berger said. “The essence of the counterclaim is that the structure of Setai Hotel Acquisition is illegal.”
In a similar case involving Icon Brickell, the Third District Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling that found that one of the three-tower development’s condominium associations violated the Florida Condominium Act by deeming common elements as part of the hotel unit that houses a W Hotel. As a result, the hotel unit owner, rather than the association, controlled maintenance, repair and improvements to the common elements, while shifting the burden of paying assessments from the hotel unit owner to individual unit owners.
“The hotel unit owner certainly has the ability to oversee certain aspects like the hotel lobby,” Berger said. “But the hotel unit owner does not have the ability to set and enforce rules for areas such as the parking garage. Those fall within the purview of the condo association.”
In response to the counterclaim, Setai Hotel Acquisition asserts that the condo declaration provides the hotel unit owner with unique powers that supersede the statutory authority of condo associations. Also, that the hotel unit owner may impose penalties on residents, which include revoking access to a building’s facilities and amenities, the lawsuit states.
Berger refutes Setai Hotel Acquistion’s assertion that his client attempted to skip out on her hotel bill, noting Lazow had provided a credit card that was charged at least twice during the early part of her initial four-month stay. “The credit card was not run again subsequent to those charges,” Berger said. “Instead of running the card, they used the outstanding balance as a pretext to remove her.”
The Real Deal obtained emails from Lazow and her previous attorney to Setai finance and accounting personnel attempting to settle her hotel debt prior to Jan. 12, when she was kicked out. Berger said she paid the $102,595 immediately after she was asked to leave. According to a Jan. 8 Miami Beach police report, Lazow was having an affair with the Setai’s general manager until his girlfriend found out and poured a drink on Lazow inside the hotel’s restaurant, Jaya, three days before she was asked to leave. Despite the nasty dispute, Lazow wanted to return to the Setai, Berger said.
“Ms. Lazow is a Florida native and likes the Setai’s location and amenities,” Berger said. “They are making wild accusations when clearly she is the victim. It is highly unusual to see a condo-hotel owner go to such lengths to make a tenant’s life this difficult.”