A whole list of Prime Apartment tenants have served their landlord and his property manager with a "laundry list" of allegations including illegal rent increases as well as associated harassment, intimidation and retaliation.

The "laundry list" was filed yesterday in Ocean County Superior Court by Prime Apartment tenants Alexander Sternbuch, Shmuel and Rochel Bogart, Dovid Balter, Shmuel Banker, Aaron Beer, Yaakov Cohen, Moshe and Feigy Eisemann, Ezra Esses, Tzvi and Zipora Feifer, Chezky Feigenbaum, Yehoshua Finkel, Yisroel Friedman, Ashi Fuchs, Boruch Gellis, Yaakov Glustein, Yonah Goldberg, Yaakov Gordon, Esther Gorelick, Elozor Greenberger, Shmuel Grunhut, Yehuda Gugenheimer, Alter Halberstam, James Holtzberg, Yisroel Kanarek, Dovid Kaplan, Kirnos, Zev Kramer, Abraham Leibiker, Yehuda and Yehudis Marcus, Steven Meisels, Yisrael Mordowitz, Nochum Naiman, Chayala and Moshe Olshin, Dovid Paskesz, Meir Poltzer, Tzvi Puretz, Shlomo Reidel, Mordechai Reis, Menachem Rosenblum, Dov Rosenman, David Rothstein, Yaakov Schechter, Chaim Schwab, Chanoch Shapiro, Temima and Zachary Shemesh, Naftoli Simon, Yosef and Zizi Simon, Mordechai Snyder, Samuel Tepfer, Yisroel Weiss, and Moshe Wilner.

The tenants are represented by Attorney Ian Goldman Esq. of Levin Shea Pfeffer and Goldman. (Mr. Goldman also serves as the Lakewood Municipal Prosecutor and counsel to the Lakewood Township Municipal Utilities Authority and Board of Fire Commissioners.)

Defendants are Prime Apartments, which is owned by Cheskel Brach, and Rushmore Management, the property manager.

Prime Apartments is a 104-unit residential building, with 4 of those units classified as storage units pursuant to their Lakewood Zoning Board approval.

According to the tenants allegations:

The landlord, Cheskel Brach entered into contracts he prepared with tenants and specifically in writing agreed not to raise rents more than 5% at renewal and be bound by Lakewood rent control.

However, he is attempting, and has raised rent above the 5% Lakewood Township Rent Control Ordinance, and in one instance raised rent 50% over current rent in breach of not only the existing leases but also in violation of law.

Additionally, Brach contends that there is no Lakewood rent control law or rule as Deputy Mayor Menashe Miller years ago abolished the Rent Control Board and his building is new and exempt from rent control and hardship for landlord.

In 2014, Prime Apartments submitted an application to the Lakewood Zoning Board to construct a building with 104 apartments. The application was represented by Attorney Abraham Penzer Esq.

Ultimately, the Board approved the application but with a stipulation that there be only 100 apartments rented for residential use, and the remaining 4 apartments are to be for storage use only.

The developers of the building originally decided to use this stipulation to their advantage by expressly advertising that the building will contain units for storage space and that the tenants of the residential apartments will be able to make use of this "extra storage area."

Chaskel Brach and David Glick were the owners of the building when the building was brought on the market and leases were offered to the tenants.

Many of the new tenants received lease agreements which stated a rent amount of $1,795, however they were told that the actual rent via rent concession would be approximately $400-500 less each month, depending on the tenant.

The reason for this odd set up, allegedly, was to defraud the bank by inflating the value of the property. The tenants had no idea and were duped into being pawns which enabled the landlords to do their fraud.

In the beginning of the third year of the lease, in December 2020, Prime renewed another lease but requested a rent increase of $35 for a total rent of $1,335, a 2.7% increase over the base rent of $1,300 - well within the Township's 5% rent control ordinance.

However, suddenly, in January 2023, despite the terms of the current lease, letters were sent to a number of tenants stating that their rent would increase to $2,000.

The letters to the tenants indicated that because the building was newly built, it is exempt from the Township's 5% cap on rent increase. 

However, the Township's ordinance specifies that such landlords are only exempt if they expressly write in their initial leases that the building is exempt from rent control, and the date when the exemption expires.

Additionally, State Statue requires landlords of rent control exempt buildings to file as a new building 30 days prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy, which this landlord failed to do.

To date, some of the tenants have collectively decided to continue to make payments to the landlord at 5% above their most recent lease that they agreed to.

Each month they receive a statement from the landlord with arrears accruing as a balance for not paying the full amount requested pursuant to the landlord's unilateral and illegal lease changes and rental increase.

Eviction proceedings and threats of eviction proceedings have started due to these partial payments which is why the Plaintiffs have initiated this action.

The landlord is bound to the contract he drafted and he failed to comply with requirements to claim exemption from rent control and just the opposite bound himself contractually to rent control.

The defendants are attempting to rescind all contracts and leases of their current tenants through a campaign of threats and intimidation unless tenants agree to an illegal and substantial rent increase.

The ten count lawsuit alleges that the defendants violated the following laws and regulations in the State of New Jersey:

1) Lakewood Rent Control Rules

2) Destruction and Removal of Tenants Properties from Storage Units - in order to intimidate the tenants to pay higher rent, the landlord removed their property from the storage units and began to renovate those units into rental apartments

3) Intimidation of Tenants Through Threats of Harassment - the landlord first attempted to buy them out of using the storage units, then attempted to evict them from using the units, and even attempted to charge them extra for using the units

4) Non-payment of Utilities and Threats of Water Shut-off - despite the tenants having paid rent as required under their leases, they have received notices that their utilities will be shut down

5) Lack of Heat Due to Poor Insulation - the building has been at 50° in the winter due to the landlord's failure to fix the insulation 

6) Lakewood Zoning Ordinance - the landlord does not provide 1.5 parking spaces per unit as required 

7) Retaliation Against Tenants - it is Mr. Brach's stated goal to make it untenable to live in the building so he can charge new tenants as much as he wants and chase out existing tenants from the building. He has threatened to remove tenants for "overcrowding," and he is further threatening to remove tenants property from the storage if they are not marked up with the tenants name and further limiting access to the storage units for several hours per day

8) Breach of Contract

9) Breach of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

10) Consumer Fraud Act

The lawsuit seeks for an order reinstating the rental amounts to the initial amounts, ordering that the tenants regain access to the storage units, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney costs and fees, and any such other damages as the law deems just and proper to make the Plaimtiffs whole again.

The defendants have 35 days from when served to Answer the Complaint.

To join a FAA WhatsApp Group, click here.

To join the FAA WhatsApp Status, click here.


Tracht! said...

Wish them well however they have a tall hill to climb... They signed a lease for $1795 and then had a verbal agreement for less rent....
They advertised the storage but its not in contract......
The rent control law established a cap AND a board The board was abolished does Half the law stand?
Good luck

Unknown said...

Why wasn't this filed in Beis Din as required by Halacha


I am proud of what I did to abolish the rent control board. It saved my close buddies from getting in trouble. Collateral damage is just a fact of life. Tenants don't really deserve rights anyways. Trust me and accept your fate.

Anonymous said...

Menashe Miller abolished the rent control board to satisfy hi$ buddies at We$stgate. It's a tremondous "avlah" to the Tzibur.

Westgate is likely the worst landlord in the State-Gangsters first class. They have in everyones lease "ONLY COURT, NO BAIS-DIN".

It should be re-instituted.

Anonymous said...

The Halacha is very clear, only in Court, with penalties imposed for the frauad, bank fraud.

FYI-The landlords went for evictions in court not bais-din.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's high-time to shlep Menashe into Court and expose the corruption.

Ex-westgate resident said...

The Township ordinance book has 2 sections related to Rent Control. Chapter 14 discusses the general regulations. Chapter 2-49 discusses the composition, powers, and procedures of the controlling Board.

It is terribly unfortunate the Menashe Miller together with his cohorts callously decided to disband the board, and the fallout is still being felt by hundreds upon hundreds of tenants across the town and over many years. There is no excuse whatsoever (outside of an ulterior calculation to help some landlord friends) to throw thousands of tenants under the bus and leave them unprotected. It is simply cruel and reflects an utter lack of care or concern for the thousands of resident tenants, who are also his constituents.

However, as bad as he has caused it to become, the committee's failure to uphold its own law pursuant to chapter 2-49 does not in any way nullify chapter 14. In fact, as it currently stands, both chapters are still officially in effect and the law of the land in Lakewood.

Although, MM tried to secretly abolish the Board a few years ago during summer vacation by ordinance, the proposal died after the first reading. This was due to the large public outcry from thousands of residents across the town after his scheme was exposed, and people became aware of what he was trying to do. At that point, in order to quell the rioting which was about to occur, he backed down and offered a public apology with a promise to keep the board alive.

However, it should come as no surprise that he never intended to keep his word. Instead, he simply made sure to never reappoint any members again. This way the board died a slow and quiet death without making any noise and without anyone catching on to his tactic. But it wasn't just a silent killing of the Board, it was also a silent way of eliminating the much-needed protections which the tenants used to rely on for their housing security and stability.

If not for the huge mess he created, the Prime Apt tenants could have saved themselves lots of stress and thousands in legal fees, by simply having their grievances heard at the township rent control board. There are hundreds of other headaches and problems that could've been avoided, if not for the huge void in rent control enforcement that he created.

People always assumed that he, of all the committeemen, should have really known better because he himself was, and still is, a tenant in the house he lives in. But with a politician there’s always other things going on.

A groyse yashekoiach to Menashe Miller for all the problems and headaches he’s caused to so many families. At least he gets to enjoy his generous taxpayer funded 68K salary plus free lifetime health insurance benefits.

Anonymous said...

I know this case,
Mr. Brach went to Bes Din and the Bes Din gave a Psak which the tenants didn't like so they decided to go to court.
The evictions stated here were sent to the tenants by a lawyer, Mr. Brach didn't take this to court and the lawyer only sent letters to the tenants that their leases were expired.

Anonymous said...

Rav forschemer gave them permission to go court