By SUSANNA KIM
When Cyndee Phoenix, 53, bought a home in October, she thought she found the perfect neighborhood in a planned real estate development in Mays Landing, N.J., about 19 miles west of Atlantic City. But she says her life has been far short of perfect thanks to a cantankerous neighbor.
And now Phoenix is claiming the developer who sold her the unit "knowingly concealed" that a "dangerous individual" would be her future neighbor, which she alleges is material misrepresentation and fraud, according to the lawsuit filed last week in Atlantic County Superior Court of New Jersey.
"At the time Ms. Phoenix expressed interest in one of the units, the defendant knew there was a neighbor directly across the street who, for lack of better words, was a tremendous thorn in the side of Lennar," said her attorney, Brett Datto.
Lennar Corp., a national homebuilder headquartered in Miami, is the seller of Phoenix's new home and the target of her lawsuit. Phoenix says Lennar should have informed her about her neighbor across the street, who is named in the lawsuit.
"We contend Lennar omitted material information so that Ms. Phoenix would purchase the home," said Datto. "Omission of a material fact is an element of fraud. You can commit fraud under most jurisdictions by omitting material information."
Phoenix, a community outreach director for a casino, says the neighbor has directed "increasingly harassing" behavior at her family, including her mother and sister. Those incidents allegedly include: death threats to her sister, "snide and racist" comments, spitting in the direction of her family members, and calling the police on her guests.
"He's made snide and racist comments, like, 'Go back to Atlantic City where you belong,' which is a more urban area," Datto said. "He blares his music loudly, takes pictures of my client's guests. He's a problem person."
Lennar Corp. did not respond to requests for comment.
On Nov. 12, just five days after Phoenix and her family moved into the home, she and her sister filed complaints for harassment and stalking against the neighbor, says her attorney.
Phoenix hired a security guard on the day the complaints were filed in fear of retaliation, the lawsuit says.
The neighbor "started to confront the hired security guard by staring at him for long periods of time, calling the police on the security guard and even following the security guard for 15 miles on the Garden State Parkway when he left [Phoenix's] property to go home," according to the lawsuit.
Datto says the problem may have been sparked even before Phoenix bought the home.
In a visit to the property when Phoenix was trying to decide whether to buy the home, the neighbor approached the sales representative to talk about "the lack of services, like landscaping of his yard," the lawsuit states.
The sales rep "implied that [the neighbor] was no longer eligible for services as a result of the time that had passed since his house was purchased," the lawsuit states.
Lennar's general counsel then sent a letter to the neighbor's wife, who owns the home, on Oct. 1, warning about his behavior.
"It has come to my attention that your husband has approached the purchasers of the home located at 128 Woodmere Avenue (the 'Neighboring Home') with the specific intent to dissuade them from purchasing a Lennar Home," the letter stated, according to the lawsuit. "I have also been advised that your husband parks his vehicles and other vehicles from your residence in the street fronting the Neighboring Home in order to block the driveway…your husband's frustration with Lennar is misplaced and the harassing conduct needs to stop immediately."
Phoenix never directed or asked Lennar to send the letter, and was not copied on the letter, but she says the company "has refused to take any action to stop the harassing conduct that it sparked with its October 1st letter," the lawsuit states.
On Nov. 7, when Phoenix moved into the property, the neighbor "refused" to move his vehicles in front of her house, despite his earlier agreement with Phoenix's sister to do so, the lawsuit states. Instead, the neighbor "got aggressive, hostile and kept mentioning the October 1st Letter," the lawsuit states.
"It was sent 30 days before my client closed and purchased the property," Datto said. "That letter fueled the fire and made it seem as though we were behind the letter."