Older NYC couple say they’re stuck with ‘roommate from hell’

An elderly couple from the Upper West Side claim they’re hooked up with the “roommate from hell” — an abusive, legitimate real estate agent in his 30s who’s taking advantage of legal loopholes to avoid paying them a penny in rent for the past year Has.

Eugene Sarver, 78, who uses a wheelchair and has severe Parkinson’s disease, and his wife, 74-year-old Ms Nina, who has dementia, said they made the unfortunate decision two years ago to rent a room in their spacious Room to rent West 97th Street condo for $992 a month to Lawrence Lee, a licensed agent for real estate giant Douglas Elliman.

Eugene Sarver alleges Lee stole the couple’s watches, pens and other belongings, routinely eavesdropped on their conversations, and particularly freaked out his wife with “poor hygiene habits” that attract rodents and other vermin into the home.

“He’s a terrible tenant and a pathological liar!” Sarver thundered to the post office.

The couple say the experience left them so stressed that they’ve been in and out of hospitals for the past year with heart problems and other ailments while trying to get Lee out of eviction – only to watch the savvy salesman complete the process through repeated requests dragging government support and then appealing after denial.

Lawrence Lee
Lee declined to comment to a Post reporter at the home.
JC Rice for NY Post

It’s gotten so bad that the couple regularly stays 10 miles away in a Bronx nursing home, while Lee has free reign over his rent-subsidized three-bedroom, two-bathroom bargain that costs $2,200 a month and includes exclusive office space.

Lee stopped paying his share of the rent and utilities in June 2021 — and now owes the couple $12,518 to lay out, according to Sarvers’ records.

That same month, Eugene Sarver filed a police report alleging that Lee forcibly snatched a cellphone from the senior’s hand while he was in the process of interviewing “a potential renter” to replace Lee, NYPD records show .

241 West 97
The condo is a rent-subsidized bargain at $2,200 a month with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
JC Rice for NY Post

“He came into my office and snatched the phone out of my hand very forcefully,” the retired global marketing expert and political science lecturer recalled. “My arm hurt for two weeks. And he said, ‘I’ll never move.’”

Manhattan Housing Court files show the Sarvers are attempting to evict Lee, but the process was held up last year because the alleged moocher repeatedly sought help through the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

By law, he cannot be evicted from the home while appeals are pending – although records provided by the Sarvers show he has been turned down on multiple occasions and simply continues to circumvent the system by reapplying for assistance.

Lawrence Lee
Lee is a licensed agent for real estate giant Douglas Elliman.
Douglas Elliman

Eugene Sarver said Lee’s application continues to be denied in part because the couple fails to sign papers claiming the agent is eligible for assistance. The senior said he and his wife would not cooperate because Lee is “cheating the system” and they don’t want any part of it.

“He saw an opportunity to make money, but he lives an expensive lifestyle,” Sarver said.

During a visit to her apartment with the elderly couple on Friday, a Post reporter spotted Lee placing a giant air conditioner in the room. When asked for comment, he dropped the air conditioner on the living room floor and ran for cover in his bedroom.

A Post reporter and photographer then had to move the device to allow Eugene Sarver to get around the living room in his wheelchair. Lee later continued to decline comment before fleeing down an eighth floor stairwell.

Additional reporting by Irie Sentner Older NYC couple say they’re stuck with ‘roommate from hell’


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