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As tenants of Prime Apartments continue to drag on their litigation by seeking another date to continue deposing Chaskel Brach their landlord, Mr. Brach's attorney is charging on with a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

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 Attorneys Ian Goldman, Adam Pfeffer, and Cassandra Distefano 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 then-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.

Since the onset of the litigation there has been extensive motion practice on both sides.

The tenants filed two emergency motions seeking to take the building out of the hands of its landlord and have a Receiver appointed to manage the building instead. Both times the judge denied to even schedule hearings on the matter, saying that he didn't deem the matter to be emergent.

The landlord served the tenants with Hasro'os (warnings) and Seruvin (contempt orders) from multiple botei din.

Additionally, the landlord filed numerous motions to dismiss the entire complaint, on the basis that the complaint failed to state a claim and on the basis that the tenants "have failed and not responded to basic discovery requests."

Up until now these motions have been denied.

A few months ago, the tenants cranked things up a notch by serving 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 move was in connection with the tenants' claims that their landlord defrauded the bank by inflating the value of the property.

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

Ultimately, Judge Must did not quash the subpoena, however, he did grant a protective order so that the tenants could not use the records for anything outside of this litigation.

Since then, back in February, the landlord filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing simply:

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.

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.

Instead of responding to this simple motion, the tenants asked the judge to adjourn the motion as they need to first sit their landlord down for a deposition. Judge Must agreed to this adjournment request.

At the deposition which occured last week, the tenants' attorneys held up the bank records which they procured through discovery and questioned their landlord. The landlord's attorney asked to receive copies of these records so they could have more time to review the information. Astoundingly, the tenants' attorneys denied this request.

Subsequently, without yet responding to the motion filed over two months prior, the tenants asked the judge for another adjournment so they can take another deposition next month.

Over the landlord's objections, the judge agreed to postpone the Summary Judgement motion to Friday, May 24, 2024.

In the meantime, the landlord is doing all he can to get the litigation dismissed sooner.

Just today, his attorney filed a new motion to dismiss.

Since the initiation of the litigation - nearly an entire year ago - a number of tenants have settled out of court, sporadically over time.

To determine which tenants are still are in the litigation, the landlord's attorney sent them all a discovery demand requiring them to answer one simple question: Confirm that you are not still continuing to actively pursue litigation in court against Prime Apartments.

In over 30 days, not one single tenant has answered this one single question. 

Accordingly, the landlord's attorney has just filed a Motion seeking for dismissal of the complaint on the basis of "discovery deficiency," arguing that because the discovery has not been answered, it is deemed admitted.

The motion is returnable before Judge Must on Friday, May 10, 2024.

The tenants have not yet responded to the just filed motion. 

Despite that this contentious litigation has been ongoing in civil court since May 2023, 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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