Compass agent sued for $800K in rent on 21 West Village apartments

Elaine Comerford leased entire building, then stopped paying, landlord claims

Elaine Comerford, Compass, in front of 39 Christopher Street (Compass, Google Maps, iStock/Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)
Elaine Comerford, Compass, in front of 39 Christopher Street (Compass, Google Maps, iStock/Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)

With more than 25 years of real estate experience, Compass agent Elaine Comerford knows a thing or two about the slippery slope of missing rent.

But in renting out an entire West Village apartment building, the veteran broker racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in arrears, the owner claims in a lawsuit.

Village Realty, an LLC tied to landlord Kenneth Rosenblum, sued Comerford on Wednesday for breach of contract, seeking over $800,000 plus interest for 21 apartments she allegedly rented at 39 Christopher Street.

An attorney for Village Realty said the landlord had waited long enough for the agent to pay.

“Each landlord has their own clock about when it’s time to sue,” said Joshua Price. “For this particular client, I can’t be specific, but it was certainly time to sue.”

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The agreement to rent out the units dates back years, though an exact date is unclear. Comerford put down a security deposit of $22,000 and agreed to pay $2,200 a month for each of the building’s one-bedroom apartments and $3,100 a month for the two-bedrooms, according to the suit.

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The payments rolled in at first, but at some point ceased, even as Comerford continued to “use and occupy the various units,” the lawsuit claims.

What, exactly, Comerford did with the apartments is not specified, though the lawsuit claims she profited from the property “without adequately compensating” the owner.

“There was no indication that was given to us,” said John Churnestsky, another attorney representing Village Realty in the case, maintaining that the landlord rented an entire 21-unit building to a single person without having any idea what her plan was.

A page on Compass’ website shows no active listings in the building, but does show several past rentals listed by her wife Marie-Claire Martineau, a fellow Compass agent and co-founder of Comerford’s Maison International team.

Comerford and Martineau fielded an inquiry from The Real Deal but did not comment by press time. Compass declined to comment.

Price said the agent’s alleged failure to pay presents a major threat to his client’s property.

“When people are in the business of owning buildings, it’s generally to rent space to other people. That rent is then used to pay other expenses,” the lawyer said. “When someone rents an entire building and doesn’t pay, it is catastrophic.”