Township of Robbinsville, NJ
Mercer County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township of Washington (now Township of Robbinsville) by Ord. No. 95-25 (Ch. XIII of the 2001 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]

§ 196-1 Findings.

The governing body of the Township of Robbinsville does hereby declare that an emergency exists within the Township with respect to the rental of housing space for mobile home residential dwellings not subject to rent regulations by reason of the demands for increases in rent that are determined by the governing body to be exorbitant, speculative, and unwarranted and that such increases are causing severe hardships on the tenants and are adversely affecting the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the Township, warranting legislative action by the governing body. The governing body finds that mobile home parks are not subject to market forces because of the inability of owners of mobile homes to move units from one park to another as a result of excessive costs and other factors. The absence of market forces and the absence of competition render tenants in mobile home parks vulnerable to exorbitant increases in rent. Under the police powers granted to the governing body, in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the Township of Robbinsville, a Rent Leveling Board is determined to be necessary within the Township.

§ 196-2 Definitions.

As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT
An improvement that adds to the value of the mobile home park, prolongs its useful life or adapts it, or any portion thereof, to new uses or improves its appearance and is not classified as a repair by the Internal Revenue Code or regulations.
[Added 5-31-2013 by Ord. No. 2013-8]
CONSUMER PRICE INDEX
The "Housing" subindex of the Consumer Price Index - All Urban Consumers (not seasonally adjusted) for the Philadelphia-Wilmington-Atlantic City, PA-NJ-DE-MD Area, with a base period of 1982-1984 = 100, as published by the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
LANDLORD
The person or persons letting, owning or managing a mobile home park situated within the Township of Robbinsville.
MOBILE HOME PARK
As defined in N.J.S.A. 54:4-1.4e.
RENT
The entire consideration paid by a tenant for the use of or occupation within a mobile home park, except that specifically excluded from this definition is any consideration that may be paid by a tenant for water or sewer service/usage that may be charged by any private entity providing said service to the mobile home park/tenant, and pass-throughs provided in §§ 196-13 and 196-14.
[Amended 12-27-2007 by Ord. No. 2007-61; 5-31-2013 by Ord. No. 2013-8]
RESIDENTIAL RENTERS CONSUMER PRICE INDEX
The "Rent of Primary Residence" subindex of the Consumer Price Index - All Urban Consumers (not seasonally adjusted) for the Philadelphia-Wilmington-Atlantic City, PA-NJ-DE-MD Area, with a base period of 1982-1984 = 100, as published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
TENANT
The person or persons to whom a site within a mobile home park is rented, which is situated in the Township of Robbinsville.

§ 196-3 Rent Leveling Board.

[Amended by Ord. No. 97-23; Ord. No. 98-9]
A. 
Creation; membership. There is hereby created a Rent Leveling Board consisting of three members, appointed by the governing body, selected on the basis of their qualifications and fitness for service on the Board. The governing body shall be responsible for, and have control over, the retention of any professionals or support staff for the Board.
B. 
Conflicts of interest. Any member shall disqualify himself or herself from participation in any phase of any dispute, controversy, or claim whatsoever involving the mobile home park in which he or she has or has had any security, ownership, management, leasehold or other interest of whatsoever nature. Such disqualification shall not be mandatory if the member's interest in the mobile home park was extinguished more than two years preceding his or her appointment. This shall not prevent a member from disqualifying himself or herself for any other legal, valid reason.
C. 
Terms of office. Members and alternates shall be appointed for two years.
D. 
Alternates. Two alternates shall be appointed by the governing body. In the absence of a regular member, an alternate member may vote on matters already in progress upon certification that he or she has reviewed all prior proceedings in the matter and is familiar therewith.
E. 
Quorum. A majority of the whole number of regular members shall constitute a quorum. If a quorum is not present, including alternates, one hour after the appointed time for any meeting, the presiding officer shall declare the meeting or hearing adjourned.
F. 
Subpoena power. The Board shall have the power to subpoena witnesses, books and records pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:67A-1 et seq.
G. 
Confidentiality. Insofar as the Open Public Meetings Act of New Jersey of 1975 (N.J.S.A. 10:4-6 et seq.) permits, whenever any material, the disclosure of which constitutes an invasion of individual privacy, is to be discussed, a request for confidentiality may be made and shall be honored.
H. 
Appeals. Appeal of any decision of the Board may be had to any court of competent jurisdiction.
I. 
Powers and duties; procedures; fees.
(1) 
Adjudicate rent increases and decreases. The Rent Leveling Board shall have the power and duty to hold hearings and adjudicate:
(a) 
Pass-through for capital improvements and/or infrastructure costs/repairs – review by Rent Leveling Board. Upon completion of a capital improvement and/or infrastructure cost/repair, the landlord may pass through to the tenants the cost thereof as an additional charge to the extent the Rent Leveling Board finds that such cost or portion thereof was a reasonable and necessary expense of the mobile home park. Any such approved pass-through charge shall not be considered rent for purposes of computing rental increases.
[Added 5-31-2013 by Ord. No. 2013-8[1]]
[1]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also provided for the renumbering of former Subsection I(1)(a) and (b) as Subsection I(1)(b) and (c).
(b) 
Hardship increase in rents. This is rental in addition to the increases permitted under this chapter. The Board shall not permit a total increase which is more than a just and reasonable rate of return. In determining just and reasonable rate of return, the tax assessment divided by the average ratio of assessed to true value as promulgated on the October 1 preceding the application for increase of the premises shall be the basis.
[1] 
In the event that a landlord cannot meet his mortgage payments, maintenance costs or other costs, he may appeal to the Board for a hardship increase in rent, and the Board may grant the landlord a hardship rent increase to meet these payments. Prior to any such appeal to the Board, a landlord must provide to the tenants' association, or if there is no tenants' association, post in a conspicuous place in and about the premises, a notice of said appeal, setting forth the basis for the appeal. Said notice must be posted for at least 15 days prior to the proposed filing of the appeal. In the event a hardship rent increase is granted, such shall be deemed a surcharge, and the Board shall determine a period of time for which such surcharge shall continue. As part of the application, the landlord shall submit year-end financial statements for the three years preceding the application, together with records establishing the amount of mortgage payments, maintenance costs and other costs alleged to be the basis for the hardship increase.
[2] 
A landlord may also seek a hardship increase in rent for major capital improvements or services. A major capital improvement is an improvement to the structure, systems, or amenities of the mobile home park which provides a benefit or service to the tenant which was not previously provided. Except as mandated by New Jersey statute, specifically excluded from this definition are the replacement of existing systems or structures, ordinary repairs, and maintenance items. Examples of a capital improvement would be the installation of swimming pool or air conditioner where none previously existed. The landlord must notify each tenant by certified mail or personal service of the total cost of the completed capital improvements or service, the number of years of useful life of the improvement, as claimed by the landlord for purposes of depreciation for income tax purposes, the average cost of the improvement, and the capital improvement surcharge he is seeking from each tenant. The landlord seeking a capital improvement or service surcharge shall appeal for the surcharge to the Board, which shall determine if the improvement is a major improvement and, if so, shall permit such increase, provided that it is clearly demonstrated to be necessary for the health, safety and general welfare of the tenants.
(c) 
Decrease in rental. Decreases in rental are those permitted by the Board upon application of a tenant, after which the Board has adjudicated that there has been a significant decrease in maintenance, repairs, facilities or services or a combination thereof.
(2) 
Regulatory. The Board may adopt such administrative rules and regulations, both procedural and substantive, as it deems necessary and appropriate to implement this chapter and to facilitate its administration, with the approval of the governing body. Such rules and regulations may not be inconsistent with or contrary to the provisions of this chapter but must be consistent with the intent and spirit of this chapter. Such rules and regulations shall be filed with the Municipal Clerk.
(3) 
Adjudicatory. The Board may entertain applications by landlords or tenants for rulings interpreting and applying the provisions of this chapter and may hold hearings to make findings of fact hereunder. The Board may rule and declare, in response to an application, the actions of any person to be in violation of or in compliance with this chapter.
(4) 
Administrative. The Board may enforce the provisions of this chapter by seeking declaratory and injunctive relief in a court of proper jurisdiction.
(5) 
Procedures applicable to all.
(a) 
All applications to the Board shall be in writing and filed with the Office of Housing. Upon receipt, the Office of Housing shall forward a copy to all members and alternates and schedule the application for the next regularly scheduled meeting. The Office of Housing shall notify each applicant and respondent of the scheduled time and date, ordinary mail being sufficient.
(b) 
The burden of proof shall be on the applicant.
(c) 
All parties may be heard, call witnesses, be represented by counsel and offer any relevant evidence or material.
(d) 
Applications for a hardship increase in rent under Subsection I(1)(b) and (c) must be filed not later than 90 days prior to the proposed effective date of the increase. Applications for a decrease in rent, under Subsection I(1)(c), must be filed within 90 days of the alleged significant decrease in maintenance, repairs, facilities and/or services. Proof of service upon the affected tenant or landlord, as the case may be, by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by personal service must accompany each application. Any applications not complying with the provisions of this chapter shall not be considered.
(e) 
Any appeals under Subsection I(1)(b) and (c) hereof must be supported by compilations and financial statements prepared by a public accountant.
(f) 
The Board may grant, deny or modify any application under Subsection I(1)(b) and (c) or (2) of this section, and its decision shall be binding on all parties.
(g) 
Nothing herein shall be construed to interfere with contractual obligations.
(6) 
There shall be a fee payable to the Township of Robbinsville as set forth in Chapter 109, Fees.

§ 196-4 Annual rent increases.

[Amended by Ord. No. 97-23; 5-31-2013 by Ord. No. 2013-8]
A. 
Establishment of rents between a landlord and a tenant in all mobile home parks shall hereafter be determined by the provisions of this chapter. The landlord may receive on an annual basis a percentage increase for the occupancy of a mobile home park pad, which increase is to be computed based upon the annualized percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index, New York-Northern New Jersey Region average for the prior year. Such annual percentage increase shall not exceed a maximum of 3.5% of the current rent unless the Rent Leveling Board has granted a hardship rent increase. The percentage of allowable increase calculated hereunder shall be applied to the tenant’s existing base rent. In any event, the landlord may implement a rent increase up to 2.0% of the tenant’s existing base rent regardless of the increase in such CPI index.
B. 
No landlord may increase the rent of any one tenant more than once in each twelve-month period; provided, however, that should rent of any one tenant not be increased for a period of 12 months, the maximum allowable increase shall be the average of the percentage increase in the consumer price index and the percentage increase in the residential renters' consumer price index for the preceding 12 months multiplied by the number of months since previous increase divided by 12.
C. 
Allowable increases in rent may be rounded off at the nearest dollar figure. In the event the landlord elects to round off rental increases, then all such increases shall be rounded upward where the increase is $0.51 or more and shall be rounded downward where the increase is $0.50 or less.
D. 
No application need be made to the Rent Leveling Board for rent increases in accordance with Subsections A and B. Notice shall be provided to the tenants and the Municipal Clerk of said rent increases pursuant to § 196-6.

§ 196-5 New tenancies; vacancy decontrol.

[Amended 5-31-2013 by Ord. No. 2013-8]
A. 
New tenancies. The provisions of this chapter shall apply only to those leaseholds or tenancies in existence on or after August 1, 1995. Any tenant who moves from one location to another in the same mobile home park may rent the location for the same rent which was payable by the previous tenant of that unit plus the applicable allowable increase. Any new tenant who occupies a location within a mobile home park may rent the location for the same rent which was payable by the previous tenant of that location plus any applicable allowable increase which could have been imposed upon the previous tenant had the property not been vacated. Any rental increase at a time other than at the expiration of a lease or termination of a periodic lease shall be void. Any rental increase in excess of that authorized by the provisions of this chapter shall be void.
B. 
Vacancy decontrol.
(1) 
Upon the voluntary vacation of a pad by a tenant, or vacancy due to death, disability, court process or any other uncoerced means, the pad shall become permanently decontrolled and exempt from the provisions of this chapter. Upon rerental of the pad, the landlord shall be permitted to increase the rent in the first year to a market rate rental, rounded to the nearest dollar.
(2) 
The landlord shall provide notice to the Rent Leveling Board of any pad that becomes eligible for vacancy decontrol prior to the pad being rerented.
(3) 
Once a pad has received vacancy decontrol, upon rerental as set forth in Subsection B(1), any future rental increases for the tenant in occupancy shall be subject to the rent control provisions of this chapter.
(4) 
Vacancy decontrol shall not apply in the event the manufactured home is inherited by a spouse, parent, or child of the deceased tenant and is occupied as the principal residence by such spouse, parent or child within 45 days of the tenant's death, subject to such spouse, parent or child renting the pad and complying with the rules and regulations of the mobile home park in effect at that time.

§ 196-6 Notification of tenants.

Any landlord seeking an increase in rents shall notify the tenant by certified mail or by personal service of the calculations involved in computing the increase, including all information required in order to compute the formula as set forth in § 196-3I(1)(b) hereof, as well as the rental charged for the site under the terms of the most recent prior lease. A copy of the notice shall be filed with the Municipal Clerk at the time of notice to tenants.

§ 196-7 Reprisal.

Willful reprisal by a landlord against a tenant or by a tenant against a landlord of any nature whatsoever, because of the party's use of the provisions of this chapter, shall be punishable as provided in § 196-12.

§ 196-8 Maintenance, repairs, facilities and services.

Any significant decrease in maintenance, repairs, facilities or services shall be deemed an added rent and may result in a decrease in rents as provided in § 196-3I(1)(c). In addition, it may be deemed a reprisal and subject the landlord to penalties provided in § 196-7 above. Significant decrease in maintenance, repairs, facilities or services is a factor to be considered in all applications hereunder. If the Board shall determine that there has been a significant decrease in maintenance, repairs, facilities or services, it may also order that a pro rata share of all rentals collected from the residential multiple-family dwellings be placed in escrow, shall appoint a trustee to take custody of such account, shall direct the trustee to provide the maintenance, repairs, facilities or services in accord with public bidding laws and to pay therefor out of the escrow, and shall order the landlord to pay the trustee a reasonable fee for his services. The order shall continue so long as the landlord fails to provide the required maintenance, repairs, facilities and services.

§ 196-9 Waiver of rights.

Any written or oral provision in any agreement whereby the rights conferred under this chapter are waived is deemed against public policy, void and unenforceable. [1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Original Section 13-11, Increase prior to effective date, which immediately followed this section, was deleted 8-30-2005 by Ord. No. 2005-29.

§ 196-10 Initial rents; vacating owners.

The owner of housing space being rented to a new tenant for the first time shall not be restricted in the initial rent charged. Any subsequent rental increases, however, shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter. In the event a vacating owner of a mobile home believes that the landlord is seeking to unreasonably increase the rent to a potential purchaser of the mobile home, the vacating tenant may apply to the Rent Leveling Board for a determination as to the reasonableness of the proposed rent increase.

§ 196-11 Construal of provisions.

This chapter, being necessary for the welfare of the Township of Robbinsville and its inhabitants, shall be liberally construed to effectuate the purposes thereof.

§ 196-12 Violations and penalties.

A willful violation of any provision of this chapter or of an order of the Board shall be punishable as provided in Chapter 1, Article II, General Penalty. A violation affecting more than one leasehold shall be considered a separate violation.

§ 196-13 Tax increase pass-through; tax appeals; notice.

[Added 5-31-2013 by Ord. No. 2013-8]
A. 
Tax increase pass-through. A landlord may pass through to its tenants its increase in real property taxes levied by the municipality in the immediately preceding tax year pursuant to the following provisions:
(1) 
The tax pass-through shall be equivalent to the increment of the current year’s real property taxes over the prior year’s taxes divided by the total number of tenants in the mobile home park as of August 1 of the current year and shall be based upon the tax bills issued at or around August 1 of the current year. In no event may the total taxes paid by the tenants to the landlord exceed the total real estate taxes annually assessed to the property.
(2) 
The tax surcharge for each tenant shall be payable in 12 equal monthly payments, 1/12 each month.
(3) 
The landlord shall provide notice to the tenants of the calculations involved in computing the tax pass-through, setting forth the total amount of the tax increase for the mobile home park divided by the total number of mobile home pads to indicate the annual amount to be passed through to each tenant. A copy of the notice shall be filed by the landlord with the Municipal Clerk at the time of the notice to the tenants.
(4) 
For the purposes of this tax pass-through provision, 2013 shall be the base year, and 80% of the taxes paid that year shall be the base which is the responsibility of the landlord that cannot be passed through to the tenants.
(5) 
The tax pass-through shall not be considered rent for purposes of computing rental increases.
B. 
Tax appeals.
(1) 
In the event a municipal property tax appeal is taken by the landlord, and the landlord is successful in said appeal and the taxes are reduced, the tenants shall receive 50% of the net tax reduction for each year under appeal after deducting the landlord’s reasonable expenses in prosecuting the appeal. The landlord shall receive the remaining benefit of the tax reduction.
(2) 
Within 30 days after receipt of the judgment, the landlord shall serve the tenants with a notice setting forth the calculations involved in the tax reduction. A copy of the notice shall be filed by the landlord with the Municipal Clerk at the time of the notice to the tenants.

§ 196-14 Pass-through for water and sewer usage; notice.

[Added 5-31-2013 by Ord. No. 2013-8]
A. 
The landlord may install submeters for each pad for purposes of measuring water and sewer usage or implement a RUBS system allocating usage on an equitable basis. The tenant will thereafter be billed for his/her usage by the landlord or a third party. To the extent that a landlord seeks to pass through any third-party administrative costs associated with a RUBS system to tenants at the park, the landlord shall be required to have it reviewed and approved by the (Rent Leveling) Board prior to said costs being passed through pursuant to § 196-3I(3).
B. 
The billed costs for water and sewer usage by a tenant shall not be considered rent for purposes of computing rental increases.
C. 
The cost for the installation of submeters shall not be considered a capital improvement. The cost of the installation shall be borne by the landlord and not assessed or passed through to the tenants.