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Tenants of Prime Apartments have just served a Subpoena Duches Tecum on Sterling National Bank seeking information regarding their landlords financial relationship with them, including loan applications, underwriting files, and personal guarantees.

Likely, the reason for this new move is in connection with the tenants' claims that their landlord defrauded the bank by inflating the value of the property.

(According to their complaint:

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.)

It is possible that they are now hoping to use the financial applications to dump criminal charges on the landlord.

In response, the landlord Cheskel Brach is running to court seeking protection, arguing that such records are way out of the scope of the litigation.

Moreover, the landlord still has a pending motion to dismiss over claims that the tenants have still not responded to his discovery demands.

The landlord insists that he is in full compliance with the Township's Rent Control Board ordinances which - despite the fact that the Township Committee abolished the Board - remain valid and in effect; and those ordinances provide for retroactive approvals of hardship applications if the (non-existent) Board does not take action on the application within 60 days.

The landlord has also stated that he is committed to adjudicating any remaining claims in Bais Din. The tenants have shockingly responded by telling 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.

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.

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.

Ignoring all of these warnings, as previously reported here on FAA News, back in June 2023, the tenants cranked things up a whole notch higher by filing in Court for emergent relief seeking to take the building out of the hands of its landlord and have a Receiver appointed to manage the building instead!

Out of desperation after the judge did not schedule a hearing on this motion, as previously reported here on FAA News, the tenants renewed their efforts to seek emergency relief from the court.

As previously reported here on FAA News, at oral arguments held in October, Judge Must denied both requests, saying, "I don't see any basis for emergent relief here."

More recently, as previously reported here on FAA News, the landlord filed a motion to dismiss the entire complaint on the basis that the tenants "have failed and not responded to basic discovery requests."

Attorney Lori Greenberg Esq. wrote, "there is simply no way to respond to 53 complaints that were not detailed in the complaint and not responded to in discovery. The complaint should therefore be dismissed for failure to respond to interrogatories.

"Plaintiffs attempted to bring litigation as a quasi-class. They have filed motions and responses with the simple statement that there "are many plaintiffs" and strict compliance is difficult. Frankly, this is not how litigation works. Instead, this defines contumacious behavior under the case law."

This motion remains pending.

In the meantime, the tenants have just served a Subpoena Duchess Tecum on Sterling National Bank seeking information regarding their landlords financial relationship with them, including loan applications, underwriting files, and personal guarantees.

In response, the landlord Cheskel Brach is running to court seeking protection, arguing that such records are way out of the scope of the litigation.

"This is nothing more than the latest in a long line of attempts to harass the landlord and purposefully delay the litigation. Plaintiff's motion and discovery process illustrate that they have less interest in litigating this matter on the merits, but instead hope to harass the defendant. The plaintiffs have yet to answer any of the defendants discovery.

"The subpoena seeks information regarding the landlord's financial relationship with Sterling. This is not a valid request and outside the scope of discovery in this matter. Plaintiffs' have no standing to these requests, which have NOTHING to do with their alleged claims against the landlord.

"There is simply no justifiable reason for compliance with the Subpoena. Consequently, the landlord seems an order quashing the subpoena and awarding attorney fees and costs to the landlord," Attorney Lori Greenberg wrote.

The motion is returnable before Judge Must on Friday, December 1, 2023.

In his opposition to the second Order To Show Cause, 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 the previous hearing, Judge Must did not address the landlord's assertions are in full compliance with the Township's Rent Control Board ordinances, as that will be addressed at a future trial, if necessary.

As previously reported here on FAA News, Beis Din Beis Yosef has recently served a siruv against one of the tenants.

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