New Jersey is one of only four states that provide for rent control. Jersey City is one of 98 municipalities that enacted local rent-control laws. While Hoboken and Bayonne recently relaxed their rent-control ordinances, Jersey City maintains one of the State’s strongest rent-control laws. Jersey City tenants should aware of the most important part of Jersey City’s rent-control laws.
NO VACANCY DECONTROL
Vacancy decontrol is a landlord’s ability to readjust the rent to market rent (or a specific percentage increase) once a tenant voluntarily leaves the apartment or is evicted. In cases like this, the new tenant’s rent may be much more than the prior tenant’s rent. Jersey City’s rent-control ordinance does not allow a landlord to readjust the rent between tenants. Rather than allowing a landlord to adjust the rent, the ordinance requires that a landlord provide certain information to an incoming tenant. Specifically, §260-2 requires that a landlord, at the creation of a new tenancy,
“provide each occupant or tenant in his or her dwelling a written statement containing all of the information required to be filed with the Bureau of Rent Leveling in accordance with Subsection F.”
Subsection F of the Ordinance requires that a Landlord
“file a statement with the Bureau of Rent Leveling containing the following information:
(a) The name and address of the record owner or owners of the dwelling and the record owner or owners of the rental business if not the same person.
(b) If the record owner is a corporation, the name and address of the registered agent and corporate officers of the corporation.
(c) If the address of any record owner or owners is not located in the County of Hudson, the name and address of a person who resides in the County of Hudson or has an office in the County of Hudson and is authorized to accept notices from tenants and to issue receipts for notices from tenants and to accept service of process on behalf of the record owner or owners.
(d) The name and address of the managing agent of the dwelling, if any.
(e) The name and address, including the dwelling unit, apartment or room number of the superintendent, janitor, custodian or any other individual employed by the record owner or managing agent to provide regular maintenance service, if any.
(f) The name, address and telephone number of any individual representative of the record owner or managing agent who may be called at any time in case of an emergency affecting the dwelling or any housing space within the dwelling, including such emergencies as the failure of any essential service or system, and who has the authority to make emergency decisions concerning the building and any repair to the building or expenditure in connection with the building.
(g) A list of the base monthly rents of each housing space, by apartment or room number, within the dwelling as of January 1, 1983.”
Now, the section needs to be read in light of the definition of “rental statement” listed at the start of the ordinance.
RENTAL STATEMENT — The statement a landlord shall be required to sign and deliver to each tenant at the inception of the tenancy, identifying the name and address of the landlord and his or her agent, if any, identifying the name, address and telephone number of the superintendent, if any, providing a twenty-four-hour emergency telephone number for the landlord or his or her agent, describing the housing space rented, the related services and equipment involved (whether or not including use of basement, garage, clothesline, washing equipment, utilities, heat, hot water, garbage removal, repairs, maintenance and the like) as of January 11, 1973; and the base rental as of the date of the inception of the tenancy; and the rent of the prior tenant and notification of the existence of the rent registration law.
All of this combines to create the requirement that a Landlord provide, prior to a taking in a new tenant, a statement that tells the new tenant was the prior rent was. From there, the landlord can only charge the new tenant what the prior rent was (plus any legal capital improvement or other increases).
For tenants, the principle is simple. If you are occupying a rent controlled apartment, you are entitled to a statement from your landlord that shows the proposed rent complies with rent control. If you do not get that statement or have reason to believe to the legal rent listed is incorrect, your landlord may be in violation of Jersey City’s rent-control laws.
There is an additional wrinkle that’s also important. That wrinkle is the intersection of a landlord’s compliance with rent-control laws and an eviction for nonpayment proceeding. A future post will explain how a landlord’s duty to comply with rent control can affect an eviction for nonpayment proceeding. Another post will explain a tenant’s rights when a landlord’s failure to comply with rent control results in rent overcharges.
For now, Jersey City tenants should be aware that they are entitled to protections beyond what most tenants are afforded. Before renting, a wise tenant will ask a landlord for the rental statement explained above and ensure that their rent is legal.
Since the facts of each circumstance vary, a landlord or tenant should consult an attorney with his/her specific circumstances. Offit Kurman practices landlord tenant law throughout New York and New Jersey assisting tenants in avoiding unnecessary and costly delays. The firm’s geographic practice area includes: New York City (Manhattan, New York County, Brooklyn, Kings County, Queens, Queens County, Bronx County, Staten Island, Richmond County) and New Jersey (Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne, Hudson County, Newark, Essex County, Woodbridge, Middlesex County, Paterson, Passaic County). The Firm invites you to visit the “Promises” page for our new way of doing business. Contact us today for a guaranteed free initial consultation.