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New Rent Control Legislation

By Jennifer L. Alexander, Esq. and Steven G. Mlenak, Esq. September 10, 2013 Posted in Landlord/Tenant Law

A new bill awaiting the governor’s signature outlines plans to change the renting process and housing options for senior citizens and other renters, the landlord tenant lawyers at New Jersey law firm Griffin Alexander, P.C., say. The bill, A-2737/S-897, has already passed in the House, despite objections from several of the larger housing development associations in the state, and is waiting on final approval from Governor Christie. If signed, the bill will make New Jersey the only state in the country to establish regulated prices on new apartment buildings, a distinction that will have serious impact on the landlord-tenant relationship, and the development of future apartment complexes.

In most apartment complexes, landlords have the ability to increase rental prices yearly for tenants who remain in the same unit. The pending legislation would eliminate this option in buildings that house primarily senior citizens aged 55 and older, helping those who live on reduced or fixed incomes. With rent controlled buildings available, older renters will be able to stay in their apartments year after year, without worrying that they will fall victim to excessive rent hikes if they stay in one place.

The bill also plans to extend rent control stipulations to new apartment buildings, regardless of size. According to the state’s existing municipal code, newly constructed apartment buildings with 25 units or more are not subject to rent control, but if this changes, landlords of any new developments will have to charge a fixed, unchanging rent amount for the duration of their tenants’ stay.

Supporters of the bill say that the legislation will offer senior citizens the chance to continue renting the same apartment for any amount of time. Making new apartment complexes rent-controlled opens these units up to senior citizens and fixed-income renters as well. Rent control eliminates the need to move constantly, and helps renters establish permanent homes.

Despite these advantages, the bill is being contested by housing-related organizations such as the New Jersey Apartment Association (NJAA), who have expressed concerns that this bill will be the downfall of apartment living in the state, should the Governor sign off on it. Rent control has the potential to negatively affect property taxes, an especially risky proposal given New Jersey’s economic recovery. Job loss is also a factor, as the NJAA fears that developers will stop work on new buildings if they feel they will be unable to attract tenants with higher, one-time rental prices, or to keep up with the costs of maintaining the complex without increasing prices.

Apartments are home to more than one-third of all New Jersey residents, landlord tenant lawyers at Griffin Alexander report. While the construction of newer apartment complexes offers more housing options to renters, the regulated rent control may drive up prices, or eliminate building plans altogether. The bill may also put a strain on the landlord-tenant relationship, as both parties adjust to the new requirements.

As Governor Christie considers this bill, renters will need to understand what rent control may do to their housing options. The New Jersey landlord tenant lawyers at Griffin Alexander, P.C., represent landlords and tenants who may be affected by these recent changes in rent control stipulations.

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