Tenant advocates did consider small landlords in Montclair rent control talks (Letter to the editor)
We would like to respond to the allegations that tenant advocates ignored the concerns of small landlords when non-owner occupied two- and three-family units were included in the newly negotiated rent control ordinance.
Coverage of such units exists in towns such as Maplewood, while even more restrictive coverage provisions than Montclair’s exist in neighboring Caldwell or Cedar Grove. We were careful to ensure that all landlords covered by the ordinance would be able to receive a just and reasonable return on their investment.
We withdrew our demand for a straight 3% annual rent increase across the board for all tenants when Mr. William Scott, a participant in the negotiations and an owner of two buildings covered by the new ordinance, objected, noting that it would not be sufficient for small landlords.
Landlords of these buildings will now be allowed a 6% rent increase in the first year after enactment of the ordinance, provided they honored the rent freeze the Township Council put into effect in 2020, and we assume that the vast majority of them did so. They will then be allowed to receive up to a 4% ever year thereafter. For senior tenants the annual increase will be 2.5% for the first year and beyond.
When a tenant moves out, landlords will have full, unlimited vacancy decontrol, limited to once in a five-year period. This will allow small landlords the opportunity to stay at or above market levels. Additionally, they will be allowed to “self-certify” regarding substantial compliance and non-harassment of the vacating tenant, and they will have the ability to re-rent the apartment prior to final approval of the rent board.
Landlords will be entitled to hardship increases when their operating expenses exceed 65% of total gross income.
Landlords will be entitled to capital improvement surcharges for major additional services.
Also, in the event that a landlord receives a tax reduction from a tax appeal he/she is not required to share any portion of it with their tenants.
Some landlords expressed concern that the registration process would be too time consuming and bureaucratic. But this is not true. The registration with the rent control Officer in no more onerous than the current municipal registration requirement (see Montclair's municipal code, chapter 213, section 1) for rental properties of all buildings with two rental units or more.
We strongly urge the owners of the newly covered units to withdraw their opposition to the new rent control ordinance. It will provide reasonable rent increases for their tenants and mechanisms to achieve a profitable return on their investment.
Vice president, New Jersey Tenants Organization
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