I would like to include the name and address of the people I am
having problems with in case others out there run across the same issues
with these people:
EMESS PROPERTY MANAGEMENT GROUP
c/o Gary or Nathan Sobov
719 Union Avenue #174
Middlesex, NJ. 08846
EMESS PROPERTY MANAGEMENT GROUP
c/o Gary or Nathan Sobov
601 Bound Brook Rd
Middlesex, NJ 08846
Phone : (732) 424-9440
Eight years ago, I moved into an apartment complex. I would like to give you a little background information on the owners of this property, on the chance that someone reading this is currently living in one of their apartment complexes. EMESS is the name of the Property Management Group that owned the apartment complex I lived in. They own a total of six apartment complexes. The one I lived in has a market value of over five million dollars. This information is just to let you know how rich this particular 'LANDLORD' is.
One day, all of the tenants in the apartment building received a note from EMESS. In the note, EMESS Management asked the tenants to pay an additional $25.00 to help them pay for their Annual License Fee. EMESS Management stated that they already paid the city for this fee. I did not believe that tenants should pay for something not specifically stated in their lease, so I made a few phone calls. I discovered that tenants were NOT responsible for this fee and could not be forced to pay for something that was not part of their rental agreement.
Armed with this new information, I then wrote a note of my own to EMESS Management and told them that I would not pay because it was not part of my rental agreement. Now you might wonder why I did not pay because after all, it was only $25.00. Part of the reason I did not pay was because at the time there were tenants in the building who were part of the Section 8 housing program. They consisted of senior citizens and immigrants who barely spoke a word of English. In the note EMESS Management sent, they stated that this $25.00 had 'been charged to my account'. I knew that the elderly and non-English speaking tenants would not question this, so I decided to speak up on their behalf. That started a chain of events that culminated into a nightmare I am still living with, eight years later. I will attempt to explain.
After refusing to pay for their Annual License Fee, EMESS Management began sending me notes of a somewhat threatening nature. First, they sent me notes that stated if I did not pay this fee, there would be 'late fees' attached to it. Then they sent me notes that contained parts of my rental lease with the words "real estate taxes" underlined. I called a Century 21 Realtor and asked if Annual License Fees and Real Estate Taxes were the same thing. He said they were two different things and then explained what these two things were. So, I did not pay the fee.
Meanwhile, in my lease it stated that if tenants paid their rent 5 days past the 1st of the month, a 10% late charge would be added. I paid April's rent a few days past the 5th, so I also had to pay the late charge. Now, here comes the good part. On April 29th, long after I paid April's rent, EMESS Management went down to Municipal Court and filed a Landlord-Tenant Complaint against us. The complaint was for non-payment of rent for April and the 10% late charge (already paid weeks before) and for May's rent AND late charge (not yet due as of April 29th. I saved the best for last: Added onto the total I owed, EMESS Management added $25.00 in without explaining what it was for. What I cannot figure out to this day, is why the court administrator did not notice the dates. How can rent with a late charge applied be OVERDUE before the date the rent is due? You know the old saying, "You can't fight City Hall?" That goes double in my town!
Getting back to the Landlord-Tenant Complaint, the court date was set for May 20th. I was so angry at EMESS Management that I decided to hold May's rent until the day of the hearing to show the court what was going on with the 'landlord' and how he was trying to squeeze extra money out of his tenants.
When I arrived on the day of the hearing, I did not appear before a judge. EMESS Management's lawyer was there and I explained to him that I would pay May's rent and late charge, plus the $18.50 court fee, but I would NOT pay the $25.00 hidden in the total amount due. An agreement was signed, I paid the rent, and the rental office gave me written receipts, as I requested. Matter closed, or so I thought.
I paid June's rent late, so again I paid the late charge. On July 1st, long after I paid June's rent, EMESS Management AGAIN went down to Municipal Court and filed a Landlord-Tenant Complaint against us. The complaint was for non-payment of rent for June and the 10% late charge (already paid weeks before) and for July's rent (due but not overdue) ANDlate charge (not yet late as of July 1st). THe same court administrator okayed this complaint. However, for whatever reason, the court failed to serve me with this complaint within the proper timeframe. They gave us only 9 days notice. They are required to give 10 days notice so that the defendant (me) could request a continuance to file a counterclaim. I explained all of this to the court and they granted me a continuance. The hearing, originally scheduled for July 22 was changed to August 12th. I had a great counterclaim and an even better defense for why I did not owe the money EMESS Management listed on the Landlord-Tenant Complaint.
As fate would have it, I was forced to take Public Transportation to the courthouse on the morning of August 12, 1999, and because of this, arrived 10 minutes late for the hearing. In that 10 minutes time, the judge granted the plaintiff, EMESS Management, a 'judgment by default' and declared that I owed them the money they said I owed them. I was so angry but never bothered to appeal. I almost threw out every piece of paper associated with this entire mess, but somwhere in the back of my mind, I guess I knew one day I might need it. I did not appeal the decision, because there was so much wrong with the whole thing, that I thought I had NO defense against a large corporation with a fancy lawyer, and a judge who does not even look at the dates on Landlord-Tenant Complaints to see if it was possible that I could not have owed this money on the date EMESS Management originally filed the complaint. It was a losing battle and not worth the aggravation of going through it all again. Besides, I moved out of the apartment on July 31, 1999, and hoped that not only would I not see anyone from EMESS Management, but I also hoped they would rot in hell.
Now, fast-forward to 2004: I applied for credit and was denied. I requested my free credit report. On the credit report there are two judgments, not ONE but TWO. How could this be? I paid the first judgment in full, or at least that is what my documents and receipts say I did. After numerous phone calls and a lot of paperwork, I discovered that EMESS Management did not notify the court that I paid the judgment. The court still has the first judgment (landlord-tenant complaint) listed as 'unsatisfied'. Having never been sued before in my life, I did not know that I should have sent the court the proof that I paid the judgement. Silly me!
The second judgment's (Landlord-Tenant Complaint) balance due was for three times the amount I actually owed EMESS Management back in July of 1999. Since it was a judgment by default, EMESS Management could have claimed I owed them a million dollars, and the court would have awarded it to them.
I saved all of my papers, including my original lease and the notes and threats for the Annual License Fee that EMESS Management had no business asking for their tenatns to pay. I am now in the process (a long and stressful process) of trying to have both of these judgments 'vacated'. I want them off of my credit file completely. I could go down armed with my proof of satisfaction of the first judgment. But that would only mean that the first judgment would be listed on my credit file as 'satisfied' which I found out from a mortgage lender is just as bad as an 'unpaid' judgment. I want it wiped out completely because I paid it back in May of 1999, and it should never appear on my credit file in the first place. I am trying to get the second judgment vacated because I need to show 'someone' what it is that EMESS Management is really trying to get from me.
I found out that I can file a petition to have both cases re-heard and then a judge will decide whether to grant or deny me the petition. I was told by a court clerk that it didn't matter how long ago the judgments were set against me. If I have a good enough defense, the judge will grant me the right to hear my case again. If the judge denies it, I'll go to small claims court next. I will file two complaints in small claims against EMESS Management, one for each judgment. If that doesn't work, then I'll take them to small claims for the fraudulent information they reported to the credit bureaus about me. I figure one of these has to turn out right for me. In small claims court in my state, the maximum you can sue for is $10,000. I figure that with the inaccurate information they reported to the credit bureaus, I won't be able to secure a mortgage loan unless I have about $20,000. I am hoping they will try to settle out of court, which is what I have seen them do quite often according to the dockets I searched on the courthouse website. I don't think EMESS Management wants their dirty laundry aired. Asking for the Annual License Fee back in 1999 was illegal and they knew it. That's why their lawyer notified the court that they objected to my requesting a continuance to file a counterclaim. The lawyer knew I had a case. I'm hoping that after five years, I still do.
If any of you out there are going through similar circumstances with a landlord, or with judgments awarded against you for landlords, I would be interested in how you are handling these problems.
If you have any questions about anything you've read, sign my guestbook with your questions and I'll get back to you with the answers if I can help.
UPDATE! I sent EMESS certified letters asking them to verify the debt that claimed I owed. They received and signed for the letter. I received a letter back from them, that simply stated: "According to our records, you still owe us the money".
However, they dropped the judgments from the court, and they no longer reported anything to the credit bureaus. They knew they were doing something illegal. So, I guess the research and going through all the paperwork and headaches, finally paid of. (For now, anyway!)