TRENTON – The Assembly approved a bill yesterday which would change existing state law governing local rent control ordinances in order to protect senior tenants.
“New Jersey has one of the highest costs of living in the country, making it already difficult for those on fixed incomes – like senior citizens – to make ends meet. When owners of rental units bait seniors with low introductory rates and then switch to higher rates after filling the units, the results can be catastrophic for senior tenants,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, a sponsor of the Senate version of the bill. “We must protect seniors from these predatory practices that result in rental-hike schemes so that the folks living in senior rental units are able to live out their golden years without the uncertainty of unfair rent increases hanging over their heads.”
The bill (S-897/A-2737) would clarify the Legislature’s intent in regards to a statute which provides an exemption from local rent control for newly-constructed multiple dwellings. Currently, the state offers an exemption to any rent-control rules to all new construction for 30-years – the length of their mortgage. Under the bill, multiple dwellings which cater to tenants aged 55 and older would not be able to claim this exemption. The Senators noted that New Jersey does not have statewide rent control, but regulates how municipalities can impose their own rent control through local ordinance.
When the state approved and later clarified the exemption from rent control for new construction, the legislative statements attached to the reform law passed in 1999 noted that it was to apply only to non-senior citizen developments. However, the law itself, and subsequent regulation, have been silent on this issue.
The legislation is in response to concerns from seniors living in the age-restricted community of Woodbridge Hills in Woodbridge Township. Under the current exemption, more than 500 senior citizens have experienced significant rent increases between 16.5 and 17.9 percent over the last few years, creating a financial hardship for many tenants.
The bill now heads back to the Senate to concur with amendments made in the Assembly.
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