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Tenants of Prime Apartments have been attempting to get criminal charges filed on their landlord, Cheskel Brach.

A judge has just stopped the tenants in their tracks, FAA News has learned!

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.

(Alexander Sternbuch, Aaron Beer, Yaakov Glustein, and Nochum Naiman have subsequently settled out of court).

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 former property manager.

Brach, who is represented by Marlton Attorney Lori C. Greenberg, Esq., responded to the lawsuit by filing a hardship application to Lakewood Township's Rent Control Board. The application states 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.

As previously reported here on FAA News, 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.

Their lawsuit contains the following allegation:

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.


Accordingly, it is possible that the tenants were hoping to be able to use the financial applications to get criminal charges filed against the landlord.

In response, the landlord sought court protection to quash the subpoena, 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.

At a hearing held on Friday, the tenants insisted that the demand for the financial applications is not because they want to dump criminal charges on their landlord, but rather because they want to see if his hardship claims add up.

Judge Must did not completely buy this claim. He noted that "litigants who claim financial hardship are opening themselves up to claims from their adversary that they do not really have any hardship," and therefore, the tenants do have a legitimate basis to want to inspect his finances.

At the same time, Judge Must was cognizant that the tenants may seek to use any financial information they learn to the detriment of the landlord. Accordingly, Judge Must ordered that all material will be under a protective order and it can not be shared with other parties - including the Prosecutor's Office.

Judge Must also addressed the really big elephant in the room - the fact that the Lakewood Township Committee abolished the Rent Control Board but kept the hardship application ordinance intact.

Judge Must wondered aloud why the parties haven't yet filed legal action against the Township seeking for them to figure out what's going on with the Rent Control Board.

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.

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Anonymous said...

Judge is right

Alleging financial hardship must open ull financials for discovery, and if he doesn't give it to them they will win on appeal.

And it's not criminal charges the landlord has to worry about as long as he pays the mortgage. BUT, the bank will very likely call in the loan if he got a low rate. I lot of banks are actually looking for it.


Judge Must would be well advised to discuss this matter with Judge Gertner, who was the sitting Rent Control Board attorney when Menashe Miller used his authority to abolish the Board and bring about all of this fallout.

Anonymous said...

Can any of the choshver litigants please explain under what circumstances one is permitted to make a חילול שם שמים?

ab said...

The litigants claim to have the haskama of Rabbi Forscheimer.