Tierra Mallorca via Unsplash

I have been asked by the press what I think about the lawsuit challenging Montclair’s rent increase freeze. Here is my response.

So why have landlords filed suit against the rent freeze moratorium? They have done so because it is part of their strategy to threaten the township with legal fees and lawsuits in order to get the mayor and council to bend to their wishes. The landlords want the council to rescind the rent control ordinance passed in April 2020, or replace it with one which has very weak enforcement mechanisms.

It is outrageous because the landlords are doing just fine. Their mortgage payments have remained fixed, their property taxes have increased no more than that of homeowners, and rental properties in Montclair are selling far in excess of their assessed values. Furthermore, they have shamelessly ignored the rent freeze whenever it suits them. They have, in violation of the rent freeze ordinance, raised rents by 20% on vacant apartments, and many tenants have received unconscionable rent increase notices during this period.

Has the Montclair Property Owners Association included any of this in its lawsuit? Are they denying that they are making a fair and reasonable return on their properties? Did they indicate that Montclair has one of the highest rent levels in New Jersey? Did they indicate how many tenants have been forced out of Montclair due to their excessive rent increases?

The answer to all these questions is “absolutely no,” because greed has no bounds.

The landlords do not want to see rent control in Montclair and will do all in their power to thwart it. This lawsuit is just another bullying tactic to intimidate the mayor and council. We are proud that the mayor and council have continued to do what they can to protect their citizens during these difficult times, and we have faith that they will not acquiesce to these strongarm tactics.

The landlords, in recent negotiations with the Tenants Organization of Montclair, the NAACP, the Montclair Housing Commission and the Montclair Tenant Advisory Committee, have refused to accept a proposed rent ordinance that is substantially different and more generous for them. If the Montclair Property Owners Association is unwilling to accept a mutually agreeable ordinance, we are perfectly willing to go to referendum on the original one.

Mitch Kahn
Vice president and director of organizing, New Jersey Tenants Organization;
Lead negotiator, Montclair Tenants Advocacy Group

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