N.J. Towns Move to Limit Rent Controls

There are several moves afoot to limit or eliminate local rent controls in New Jersey, on a municipal level. For instance, in the town of Neptune a measure is being considered to eliminate rent controls for properties with four rental units or less.

Meanwhile, in Hoboken a referendum to reform local rent controls will appear on the ballot this year after having been narrowly defeated in last year’s post-Hurricane Sandy voting. The ballot measure would eliminate rent controls in buildings with 4 or fewer rental units upon vacancy and would allow a decontrol-recontrol scenario for units in buildings with 5 or more units.


Ordinance allows removal of rent control for new leases in Little Ferry


LITTLE FERRY – The Little Ferry Mayor and Council have amended Chapter 15 of the Code of the Borough, which will allow the removal of rent control for new apartment leases in the borough.

At the April 9 meeting, the council voted to pass this ordinance which allows apartment owners to charge the appropriate amount that the market dictates for their apartments. This is covered under section 9 in the Code of the Borough of Little Ferry, which was added by the mayor and council.

Mayor Mauro Raguseo cited the borough experiencing a 1.75 percent decrease in its valuation from 2012 to 2013, which is approximately $20 million as a reason for the new ordinance.

“Having a moderate rent control policy, which the proposed ordinance is, brings forth the opportunity for the apartment owners within the borough to realize more value for their investment. Higher valued property in Little Ferry is good for the community as a whole,” said Raguseo.

The ordinance will not affect any current tenants in apartments, only those who move into a previously vacated unit. According to section 15-2.2, “any rental increase at a time other than at the expiration of a lease or termination of a periodic lease shall be void.”

Those who already live in apartments in the borough can continue to renew their leases without being subject to a rent increase. Tenants with leases of less than one year and those who rent on a month-to-month basis will also not be affected and cannot be subject to eviction “in order to create a market-rate unit,” as described in the ordinance.

“The ordinance protects all current tenants while allowing the property owner to secure future earnings on their investment,” said Raguseo. “An apartment will only be free of rent control when the current tenant vacates the apartment. Current tenants need not worry about having their rent increased to market rate. The council made sure the ordinance is clear and that current tenants are protected.”

Raguseo also stated that the appeals process has not changed and that resident can still file an appeal with the Rent Leveling Board if a landlord does try to raise their rent illegally.

The ordinance also requires the property owner to notify the Rent Leveling Board when a unit becomes a market rate unit, as well as a report due by Jan. 31 on the number of units in each building that are subject to rent control and as well as the number of apartments that are market rate.


Source: North Jersey.com

Challenge to Hoboken Rent Control Initiative Gets Court Date


By Daniel Reyes/The Jersey Journal

Arguments by a group of property owners to overturn the Election Day vote that rejected their rent-control ballot initiative will be heard in Superior Court in Hudson County.

The initiative, which was voted down, 8,248-to-8,196, in November, would have exempted buildings with four or fewer units, as well as all condo units, from rent control guidelines. The group of 15 property owners, represented by attorneys Charles Gormally and Sean Smith of Brach Eichler, filed a challenge to the Nov. 6 election result in early December. The court will hear their challenge on Jan. 22.

Arguments by a group of property owners to overturn the Election Day vote that rejected their rent-control ballot initiative will be heard in Superior Court in Hudson County.

Cheryl Fallic, a spokeswoman for the rent control advocacy group Hoboken Fair Housing Association, appeared at a hearing Friday with two motions aimed at quashing the property owners’ request to allow votes that weren’t counted in the election. Both motions were denied.

The votes which Gormally and Smith claim were wrongfully rejected include 92 absentee ballots that would be more than enough to change the outcome of the ballot initiative, which was decided by 52 votes.

“I can’t believe they denied (the two motions),” said Fallic after the hearing.

Fallic described the plaintiff’s case as “flimsy” adding that while she and her supporters were still digesting the news, an appeal of Friday’s ruling wasn’t out of the question.

Gormally understood Fallic’s concern, but felt that due to situations surrounding the election, specifically Superstorm Sandy, taking another look at votes that weren’t counted is “common sense.”

Gormally pointed out that a group of ballots postmarked before Election Day weren’t counted, even though the deadline to vote had been extended to Nov. 9 due to the storm.

He also cited hundreds of people who did not receive absentee ballots until Nov. 9 due to the storm.

“The confusion surrounding the whole process merits consideration,” said Gormally.


Source: NJ.com

It’s Not Over Till It’s Over: Rent Control Supporters Vow to Continue the Fight


by Al Sullivan

Although voters rejected an effort to maintain rent control by 121 votes, supporters of rent control said they are reviewing their options and will seek to put the question back on the ballot if legal options do not prevail.

With nearly all of the votes counted from Nov. 6, the effort to retain rent control was narrowly defeated with 51 percent to 49 percent of the vote.

County elections officials certified the vote on Nov. 17, and this allows the city to gradually phase out rent control in Bayonne.

The council approved changes to rent control in November 2011 that would allow landlords to opt out of rent control once current tenants move out.

Rent control supporters tried twice earlier this year to have the matter put up as a referendum, and then when those attempts failed, they used another approached the imitative which successfully allowed the matter to be put on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Ed Gilligan, spokesperson for the Bayonne Tenants’ Association, said he was disappointed by the result, but that the group has not given up.

“We’re reviewing our legal options,” he said. “If we have to, we will go out and get more signatures and put it on the ballot again. In Hoboken, they did it twice. The first time they were swamped, but they got organized and won. We weren’t organized and we only got 49 percent of the vote.”

“I think maintaining rent control is where the sympathies of Bayonne people lie.” – Ed Gilligan
Course of action

The Bayonne Tenants’ Association was seeking to preserve rent control in the city after the council voted to do away with it in November 2011, as part of an effort to spur redevelopment in the city.

“I think we were fair in what we did,” said Councilman Ray Greaves. “I didn’t like the first ordinance that we saw [in July 2011], which didn’t protect the people living there. But the changes we voted for do, I think are fair to both landlords and tenants and will help landlords reinvest in their properties, knowing that they will get a fair return on their property.”

The vote results from Nov. 6, which were delayed because of Hurricane Sandy, lets the city council changes remain. These would allow properties to drop rent control once the residents living in them currently leave.

“I don’t think this lost because of the hurricane,” Gilligan said. “Outside groups and the city spent a lot of money to defeat our ordinance that would have kept the old rent control in place. We spent very little and we still got 49 percent of the vote. I think maintaining rent control is where the sympathies of Bayonne people lie. They do not sympathize with out-of-town political operatives who came in here to get rid of it.”

Unlike traditional referendums which would have not allowed the Bayonne Tenants’ Organization to seek another election on the measure for three years, the method they used has no limitation.

“We can put it back on the ballot as soon as we get enough signatures again,” he said.

Gillian said he and his group will likely start a public education campaign ahead of the next round in this battle to preserve rent control.

“I think the next time we can win this,” he said.

Source: Hudson Reporter

Bayonne voters uphold vacancy decontrol ordinance by slim majority






By Ken Thorbourne/The Jersey Journal

In the final count, Bayonne rent-control activists came up more than 100 votes shy of overturning the city’s vacancy decontrol ordinance in the Nov. 6 election.

After adding provisional and mail-in-ballots to the machine count, county officials certified the voting results yesterday: 6,824 residents (49.49 percent) voted in favor of overturning the ordinance; 6,965 (50.51 percent) residents voted no.

The result means that a law adopted by the council in November 2011 that allows landlords to remove certain units from rent control guidelines will stand. Landlords can apply to remove the units from rent control if the tenant willingly moves or is legally evicted.

The activists failed several times to place an initiative on the ballot to overturn the ordinance and finally collected enough valid petition signatures to put the question on the November ballot.

Betsy Parks, president of the Bayonne Tenants Organization, conceded defeat yesterday.

“The BTO will continue to thrive and we will be back,” Parks said.

Parks said that since the vacancy decontrol ordinance passed “landlords are becoming very aggressive in their attempts to push tenants out who are under the protection of rent control.”

More than 2,000 apartments in Bayonne currently fall under rent control guidelines, city officials said.


Source: NJ.com

Bayonne’s rent control referendum results can’t be certified yet

Bayonne’s rent control referendum results can’t be certified yet

By Anthony J. Machcinski


Despite 98 percent of the machine votes being tallied, the battle over rent control in Bayonne technically isn’t over, with 415 votes separating the two sides.

People hold up campaign signs on Ocean Avenue in Jersey City on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.

The ballot question asked residents if they wanted to overturn the law that allows units to be removed from rent control under certain conditions.

By a 6,568-to-6,153 margin, Bayonne voted Tuesday night to keep the current rent control law.

But with more than 5,000 Hudson County votes not yet counted those sent in by email or regular mail, as well as provisional ballots the referendum will not be certified until tomorrow at the earliest, according to Hudson County Deputy Clerk Janet Larwa.

Larwa said election officials won’t know how many of those are Bayonne ballots until officials go through them all.

Rent control applies to more than 2,000 units in Bayonne, according to city spokesman Joe Ryan.


Source: The Jersey Journal

Apparently, Rent Control Schemes Do Not Have to be Rational or Applied Fairly!


City of Hoboken prevails in aspect of litigation related to rent control

Oct 04, 2012

HOBOKEN —A Superior Court Judge ruled Thursday morning that the city of Hoboken has prevailed in part of a class action lawsuit regarding rent control, according to a press release from Hoboken City Hall.

The suit was filed against the city by a property owner, on behalf of property owners in town. The suit says the city enforced rent control laws inconsistently for almost 25 years, but then, in 2006, the city changed the laws and began enforcing them in a way that property owners could not comply with. The landlords hoped to recoup damages that they say were caused by the inconsistent enforcement, and also asked for the court to rule that the city has broken state law.

While the suit is not totally resolved, as a result of Thursday’s ruling the city will not have to pay all of the legal fees in the suit, which could have totaled more than $1 million.

The release did not specify what the next step is for the suit in general.

The city was represented by Victor A. Afanador and Marissa L. Quigley of Lite DePalma Greenberg, LLC.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer said, “It is unfortunate that so many lawsuits are filed against the City regardless of their lack of merit, but the positive results in these litigations are an important demonstration of the necessity of ensuring that the city receives the best possible legal representation.”

Source: HudsonReporter.com

City of Hoboken files complaint about confusing wording on rent control ballot question for November

Sep 10, 2012

HOBOKEN — In November, Hoboken voters will decide on whether to remove rent control from certain buildings once a tenant moves out. The measure is supported by a property owners’ group but opposed by tenant activists. Tenant activists have said the language of the ballot initiative is confusing.

Apparently, the city of Hoboken agrees.

An order to show cause, verified complaint and brief were filed Monday on behalf of the city clerk in relation to the question, according to a city press release.

According to the release, the city believes that the current proposed wording is misleading to voters, and the only way to fully protect their rights is to have the ballot question worded in a clearer manner. The city submitted a version of the question that they think is clearer, although it’s not shorter.

If the court denies the motion to revise the public question, the city has requested the approval of an accompanying interpretive statement alongside the original question. The city also requests that ballots not be printed until the matter is decided by the court.

“Regardless of which side people take on the question of rent control, voters deserve a clear understanding of the issue on which they are being asked to vote,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

Source: Hudson Reporter