Mr. Cohen, his firm, and his paralegal, Judy Nadeau, handled the real estate law sale of my house in Flanders, N.J., in which we closed in August 2017. The firm did not explain or reveal its final fees to me until a couple of days before closing, at which time it was too late to contest them without canceling the sale. The fees were originally supposed to be in the $1,100-$1,200 range -- they wound up nearly double that. This price gouging occurred without adequate and proper warning or any discussion of it in advance. The firm tried to justify its extra charges by saying we were sent an initial letter at the time of us hiring the firm, but the firm was so unorganized that we never received it until around the time of closing; had we received it, we would have signed it and returned it, but the letter, which was never originally sent by the firm, showed no such signatures. The firm tried to justify the extra charges by saying there were extraordinary circumstances in our particular sale; while that part was true (we had one initial failed buyer, and we needed to replace a failed septic system after inspection, along with other improvements to make the house sellable to the second actual buyer), it went against everything that both Mr. Cohen and Ms. Nadeau had told me in prior conversations in between the two buyers: No. 1, that there would be no extra charges because we wound up with more than one buyer; and No. 2, that under NJ real estate law, flat fees are charged, rather than hourly rates. The final invoice, post-sale, that I received showed that neither of these statements made by them was true. Additionally, hundreds of extra dollars were charged by Mr. Cohen for having to supposedly work with the eventual buyer's attorney on the approval of the new septic system. In fact, Mr. Cohen's firm totally botched the handling of the entire septic process, letting the engineer's plans sit on Ms. Nadeau's desk unopened for nearly a week (causing further delays) -- it was me (and my realtor's assistant, who can verify this), who personally gave a copy of those engineer's septic plans to the buyers and their realtor during their home inspection in July. The buyers' lawyer's approval of said plans came the following morning, meaning there was no way Mr. Cohen and his firm did anything extra to justify any supplemental septic fee between lawyers (the buyers' lawyer charged no such supplemental septic fee, according to the settlement statement that shows both lawyers' fees). And again, none of this was told to me in advance or with adequate warning. I would hope future home sellers or buyers who use Flanzbaum & Cohen, LLC, will know to insist a more thorough and up-front communication process, especially about fees, and better organization.
Also, after getting no satisfaction afterward and as we moved out of New Jersey to Florida, Mr. Cohen had the audacity and arrogance to threaten me with possible libel or slander accusations if I submitted a review such as this, or if I ultimately decide to file a more formal complaint with the New Jersey State Bar Association or the state's Office of Attorney Ethics, or legal action.
Response from Joel Cohen December 4, 2017
All fees and costs are disclosed in our Engagement Letter when a case begins. This case involved extraordinary and unanticipated services because of a failed septic system and it took two different buyers before we were able to close the sale. A supplemental fee was charged for the additional services.