AYMAN ASAAD FARES ALHAGALY VS. MEGA PROPERTIES AT 100-104 ROMAINE AVENUE (L-4279-19, HUDSON COUNTY AND STATEWIDE)

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NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION This opinion shall not "constitute precedent or be binding upon any court ." Although it is posted on the internet, this opinion is binding only on the parties in the case and its use in other cases is limited. R. 1:36-3. SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION DOCKET NO. A-4287-19 AYMAN ASAAD FARES ALHAGALY and SAFAA BEKHIT, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. MEGA PROPERTIES AT 100-104 ROMAINE AVENUE, L.L.C., and AVRAHAM FUCHS, a/k/a AVRI FUCHS, Defendants-Respondents. ____________________________ Submitted March 9, 2021 – Decided July 14, 2021 Before Judges Fisher and Gummer. On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Docket No. L-4279-19. Houston & Totaro, attorneys for appellants (Madeline L. Houston and Melissa J. Totaro, on the briefs). John V. Salierno, attorney for respondents. PER CURIAM Plaintiffs, who filed a complaint alleging their landlord, defendant Mega Properties at 100-104 Romain Avenue, L.L.C. (Mega), had violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 to -226 (CFA), by charging them more than the maximum rent permitted by the Jersey City rent-control ordinance, appeal an order granting defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment and dismissing the complaint with prejudice, based on prior litigation between the parties. Because the motion judge erred in granting summary judgment based on a finding of accord and satisfaction in a summary-dispossess consent order and estoppel by a rent-leveling administrator's determination, we reverse. On or about September 1, 2018, plaintiff Ayman Asaad Fares Alhagaly signed a lease for and moved into one of Mega's apartments with his wife Safaa Bekhit, and their children. Mega charged plaintiff a monthly rent of $1,500. Eight months later, on May 21, 2019, Mega filed a complaint in the Law Division, Special Civil Part, seeking a judgment of possession based on plaintiff's failure to pay the May rent. In response to the summary-dispossess complaint, plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, raised a habitability defense, identifying at least fifteen items that needed to be addressed, including an insect infestation, a A-4287-19 2 malfunctioning toilet, and electrical fixtures needing repair. Plaintiff also filed a complaint on June 6, 2019, with Jersey City's Department of Housing, Economic Development, and Commerce, Division of Housing Preservation, Office of Landlord Tenant Relations, seeking a rent reduction and alleging Mega had charged rent in an amount exceeding the rent permitted by the City's rent- control ordinance. In a June 13, 2019 hearing in the summary-dispossess case, the parties entered into a "mediation agreement," which provided Mega would complete all repairs by June 29, 2019, and plaintiff would pay into court all rent due. Plaintiff subsequently deposited $1,500 into court on June 13, July 31, and August 5, 2019, for a total of $4,500. A court-appointed inspector issued a report dated July 13, 2019, finding Mega had not completed all of the repairs. In the rent action, a rent-leveling administrator issued a preliminary determination on July 17, 2019, finding the permitted rent for March 1, 2018, to February 28, …

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