Join Our Telegram Channel


Yehoshua Gellis who moved out of Prime Apartments in May 2023 has just filed a motion in Superior Court seeking to join in the tenants lawsuit against their landlord.

The landlord continues to stress that he is committed to adjudicating any remaining claims in Bais Din. The tenants have shockingly told the judge, "we do not agree to go to Bais Din!"

As first reported here on FAA News, back in May 2023, 60 tenants of Prime Apartment tenants served their landlord and his property manager with a Superior Court lawsuit alleging a long list of illegal rent increases and associated harassment, intimidation and retaliation.

The tenants are 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.

The allegations contained in the lawsuit include that the landlord 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.

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 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 Plaintiffs whole again.

As previously reported here on FAA News, following the filing of this lawsuit, Cheskel Brach, the landlord of Prime Apartments, served the tenants with a Hasra'ah (a warning) from the Bais Din of the Central Rabbinical Congress of the U.S.A. and Canada (the CRC).

Additionally, as previously reported here on FAA News, Bais Din Zedek which is under the auspices of Rav Yisroel Knopfler, has also authored a Hasra'ah against the tenants.

Mr. Goldman has just filed a Motion to Amend the Complaint, writing as follows:

This application is being made on behalf of Yehoshua Gellis who moved out of Prime Apartments, apartment 405, on or about May 2023.

On or about August 18, 2023, Mr. Gellis received a letter from Prime Apartments stating he owes $12,558.51 including legal fees to date.

Mr. Gellis is under the knowledge and belief that all rent has been paid in full.

Mr. Gellis contacted my office on or about August 25, 2023, wishing to be added as a Plaintiff to this Complaint.

At this time, Mr. Gellis should be added as a Plaintiff to the lawsuit as his matter arises out of the same transaction/occurrence as the current Plaintiffs and would serve as an injustice to same if he is not added.

Therefore I now file this motion to amend the Complaint to add Plaintiff Yehoshua Gellis.

As previously reported here on FAA News, back in June 2023, Marlton Attorney Lori C. Greenberg, Esq., representing Prime Apartments, filed an Answer to the Complaint together with counter-claims and separate defenses, asserting that the parties entered into lease agreement contracts, which provides how much rent is to be paid on a monthly basis, and the number of occupants that can reside at the premises, and nature of tenants occupancy, and they are in breach of their leases either because they failed to pay their rent, a rent increase, had too many occupants residing in the unit and/or occupying the unit in a manner inconsistent with the terms of the lease agreement, including by taking up storage units that are not in their lease and they are not paying for the storage.

Counter-claims include: Frivolous Claims; Unjust Enrichment; and Misrepresentation.

Ms. Greenberg has just responded to the motion to amend the complaint as follows:

The attorney is asking to amend the complaint but does not submit an amended complaint. Under NJ Ct Rule 4:9, the defendant has to consent to this additional plaintiff. We have not given written consent, nor do we give consent. We strenuously object to the attorney’s adding new plaintiffs by certification without filing an amended complaint or new complaint. The complaint must specifically state the claims made by each plaintiff. This plaintiff can file a complaint and then seek joinder but his complaints must be stated in the form of a complaint that can be answered. The pleadings cannot be amended in this way.

Subsequently, as previously reported here on FAA News, the landlord filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint for Failure to State A Claim.

At a hearing held last Friday, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Valter Must denied this motion to dismiss, saying that the tenants should get another 30 days to produce the discovery demanded by the landlord.

At the same time, Judge Must declined to grant two emergent filings by the tenants which were seeking to evict their landlord and appoint a receiver, saying, "I don't see any basis for emergent relief here."

In his opposition to the second filing for emergent relief, the landlord's attorney lays out very simply the basis of his assertion why the lawsuit must be dismissed:

The landlord filed a hardship rent increase application with the Lakewood Rent Control Board on June 9, 2023 on the basis that he is bleeding money from this property and must raise rents in order to support the economic viability of the apartment complex. Per the language of the Township's Ordinance, the Rent Control Board has to rule on the increase in 60 days or it is granted automatically. As the (non-existent) Board did not rule on the application by August 9, 2023, it became granted automatically retroactive to 30 days prior.

As such, as of August 1, rents were increased to $2,483 as requested in the hardship application to the Rent Control Board.

The tenants filed their recent Order To Show Cause simply as a run around the Rent Control Board and a futile attempt to stop this increase. Continued litigation in light of the procedural history and legal arguments presented should be viewed solely as a delay tactic.

I.e. The Lakewood Township Committee's abolishment of the Rent Control Board (which was done years ago to help "one of the boyz") continues to cause havoc for landlord and tenants alike, as that Board was granted jurisdiction to accept complaints from tenants of illegal rental increases, investigate complaints, reduce rents based on landlord's breach of covenants in lease or implied covenants, such as habitability, as well as to accept applications from landlords who are seeking rental increase based on hardship, unusual expenses, tax surcharge or other circumstances, and to adjust rents based on landlord's subsequent change in position caused by law or economic conditions.

Despite that this contentious litigation has been ongoing in civil court since May, and despite that this story highlights the havoc caused by the abolishment of the Rent Control Board, Township officials have been silent this entire time, with no public statements regarding the abolishment of the Rent Control Board and whether or not it will be reinstated.

At Friday's hearing, Judge Must did not address the landlord's assertions are in full compliance with the Township's Rent Control Board ordinances, as that matter will be addressed at a future trial.

The landlord has filed in court for 3 evictions. The hearings on those matters have been set for October 23, 2023.

To join a FAA News WhatsApp Group, click here.

To join the FAA News WhatsApp Status, click here.

No comments: