Township of Little Falls, NJ
Passaic County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the governing body of the Township of Little Falls 12-18-1995 by Ord. No. 753 as Ch. XXIV of the 1995 Revised General Ordinances. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
General penalty — See Ch. 1, Art. I.
Property maintenance — See Ch. 163.
Zoning — See Ch. 280.

§ 178-1 Definitions.

As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
AVAILABLE FOR RENT TO TENANTS
Fit for habitation as defined by the Housing Inspection Code and occupied or unoccupied and offered for rent.
DWELLINGS
Includes any building, structure, trailer, or land used as a trailer park rented or offered for rent to one or more tenants or family units. Exempt from this chapter are motels, hotels, and similar type buildings and housing units containing three residential units or less on a particular lot.
HOUSING SPACE
That portion of a dwelling, rented or offered for rent for living and dwelling purposes to one individual or family unit together with all privileges, services, furnishings, furniture, equipment, facilities, and improvements connected with the use or occupancy of such portion of the property.
PRICE INDEX
The consumer price index (all items) for the metropolitan New York City area, published periodically by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor.
RENT
The amount of consideration including any bonus, benefit or gratuity demanded or received by virtue of any agreement between the landlord and tenant for the peaceful and quiet enjoyment of the use and occupancy of the rental unit.

§ 178-2 Rent increases.

[Amended 8-8-2005 by Ord. No. 970; 8-10-2009 by Ord. No. 1078[1]]
A. 
Establishment of rents. Establishment of rents between a landlord and a tenant to whom this chapter is applicable shall hereafter be determined by the provisions of this chapter.
B. 
Annual percentage rent increase. No landlord may request or receive a percentage increase in rent for a housing space unless such rent increase is in accordance with the following provisions:
(1) 
For all tenants who resided in a housing space as of August 31, 2005, or 20 days after passage: At the expiration of a lease or at the renewal date of a periodic tenant, no landlord may request or receive a percentage increase in rent which is greater than 50% of the percentile difference between the consumer price index 90 days prior to the expiration of the lease and the consumer price index 90 days prior to the date the lease was entered into from such tenant.
(2) 
For all tenants who resided in a housing space on or after September 1, 2005, or 20 days after passage: At the expiration of a lease or at the renewal date of a periodic tenant, no landlord may request or receive a percentage increase in rent which is greater than the percentile difference between the consumer price index 90 days prior to the expiration of the lease and the consumer price index 90 days prior to the date the lease was entered into from such tenant. Notwithstanding the foregoing, any such increase shall be subject to a cap of 5%.
C. 
Expiration of lease. 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. Notwithstanding any of the provisions of this chapter to the contrary, not more than one increase in rent shall be permitted in any twelve-month period on any apartment.
D. 
Notice of increase. Any landlord seeking an increase in rent shall notify the tenant of the calculations involved in computing the increase, including the consumer price index, 30 days before the expiration of the lease and the permitted rental increase.
E. 
Landlord certification. No landlord shall charge or receive and no tenant shall pay such rent increase under this chapter unless and until the landlord has certified to each tenant and to the Township's Rent Leveling Officer that the landlord is in substantial compliance with all municipal and state laws and regulations pertaining to the maintenance and servicing of the premises in question and, in addition, has filed with the Township's Rent Leveling Officer simultaneously with service upon the tenant a copy of the notice to the tenant.
[Amended 4-25-2016 by Ord. No 1249]
F. 
New base rent. If a housing space covered by this chapter shall be vacated by the tenant, the landlord may establish a new base rent. The new occupant shall have the full protection of this chapter starting with the new base rent.
[1]
Editor’s Note: This ordinance also provided that the ordinance which it is amending be extended for four years from the date of notice of final passage.

§ 178-3 Tax surcharge.

A. 
Tax base rent adjustment. A landlord may seek a tax base rent adjustment from a tenant because of an increase in the municipal real property taxes levied on the real property in which any multiple dwelling housing space is situated only in the event that the total amount of the municipal real property taxes levied on the subject real property for any calendar year in which the increase occurs exceeds 20% of the gross income of the landlord from the real property in that calendar year. For the purpose of determining whether the municipal real property taxes exceed 20% there shall be deducted from the municipal real property taxes levied on the real property any credit, payment, rebate or reimbursement from the state. No such tax base rent adjustment shall exceed the amount computed in accordance with the following provision of this section.
B. 
Computation of adjustment. A landlord whose real property qualifies for the tax base rent adjustment herein provided for shall subtract from the total municipal real property taxes levied on the real property for the calendar year in which the increase occurs the total amount of the taxes levied thereon for the preceding calendar year. The difference shall be divided by the total number of square feet contained in all of the dwelling units in the multiple dwelling or dwellings situated on the real property. The quotient thus produced shall be the tax increase per square foot. It shall be unlawful for any landlord to require a tenant to pay a tax base rent adjustment in excess of the product realized by multiplying the number of square feet contained in the dwelling unit occupied by the tenant by the tax increase per square foot. Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary, the Rent Leveling Officer shall not permit a tax base rent adjustment to be granted a landlord which would result in the total amount of the municipal real properly taxes levied on the real property to be less than 20% of the gross income of the landlord from the real property for the calendar year.
[Amended 4-25-2016 by Ord. No 1249]
C. 
Notice. Any landlord seeking a tax surcharge shall notify the tenant of the calculations involved in computing the tax surcharge, including the present property tax for the dwelling, the property tax for the dwelling for the previous year, the total number of rooms in the dwelling, the tax increase per room, the number of rooms occupied by the tenant and the maximum allowable surcharge. The landlord shall also file the same schedule and information with the Rent Leveling Officer.
[Amended 4-25-2016 by Ord. No 1249]
D. 
Installments. The surcharge a tenant is liable for shall be paid in equal payments in 12 monthly installments for a one-year period only, commencing the first day of the month immediately following a thirty-day notice.
E. 
Surcharge not considered rent.
(1) 
The tax surcharge shall not be considered rent for purposes of computing cost-of-living rental increases.
(2) 
In instances when tax surcharges shall have been imposed resulting from increases in municipal property taxes, proportionate reductions shall be provided in instances when municipal property taxes shall have been reduced.
F. 
Tax appeal. In the event of a tax appeal, the portion of a tenant's tax surcharge not being paid by the landlord to government will be held in an interest-bearing account. In the event the appeal is successful and the taxes reduced, the tenant shall receive 50% of the reduction as applied to its tax portion, after deducting all expenses incurred by the landlord in prosecuting the appeal. If a landlord who is taking a tax appeal has paid the full taxes and has charged the tenant a tax surcharge and then is successful in his appeal, the landlord shall return to the tenant the pro rata share of the tenant's surcharge. No tax surcharge shall be collected from the tenant until certified proof is supplied to the Rent Leveling Officer that all taxes are paid up to date and no tax arrearage exists.
[Amended 4-25-2016 by Ord. No 1249]

§ 178-4 Rent Leveling Officer.

[Amended 4-25-2016 by Ord. No 1249]
A. 
Creation. There is hereby created the position of a Rent Leveling Officer within the Township municipal offices. The position of Rent Leveling Officer shall be filled by appointment of the Mayor. The term of office of the Rent Leveling Officer shall run contemporaneous with the term of the Mayor and shall conclude on the 31st day of December of the Mayor’s final year in office.
B. 
Powers of Officer. The Rent Leveling Officer is hereby granted, and shall have and exercise in addition to other powers herein granted, all powers necessary and appropriate to carry out and execute the purposes of this chapter, including but not limited to the following:
(1) 
To issue and promulgate such rules and regulations as he or she deems necessary to implement the purposes of this chapter, which rules and regulations shall have the force of the law until revised, repealed or amended from time to time by such Officer in the exercise of his or her discretion, provided that such rules are filed with the Township Clerk.
(2) 
To supply information and assistance to landlords and tenants to help them comply with the provisions of this chapter.
(3) 
To hold hearings and adjudicate applications from landlords for additional rental as determined by § 178-5 of this chapter.
(4) 
To hold hearings and adjudicate applications from tenants for reduced rental as determined by § 178-7A of this chapter.
(5) 
To enforce the provisions of this chapter and to initiate proceedings in the Municipal Court for violations.
(6) 
To issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of books and records in connection with the administration of this chapter.
C. 
The Rent Leveling Officer shall give reasonable opportunity to be heard to both landlord and tenant before making any determination.

§ 178-5 Hardship rent increase.

[Amended 12-20-2004 by Ord. No. 952; 8-8-2005 by Ord. No. 970; 12-22-2008 by Ord. No. 1060; 8-10-2009 by Ord. No. 1078]
A. 
Application to Officer. Where a landlord is not making a just and reasonable return on his investment, he may apply to the Rent Leveling Officer for a hardship rent increase. The Officer shall hold a hearing in the matter upon notice to the landlord and all of the affected tenants. The Rent Leveling Officer shall receive evidence and the landlord shall have the burden of establishing that he is not making a just and reasonable return and shall submit all records required by the Rent Leveling Officer. The Rent Leveling Officer, after considering all of the evidence, shall make findings of fact and conclusions. No landlord may request or receive any rent increase with respect to any housing space in any dwelling in which there exists an outstanding notice of violation of any federal, state or local fire, health or housing law, code or ordinance. The application by the landlord shall be accompanied by written evidence in support of the application, and a copy of the application shall be served upon each tenant affected at the same time the application is filed with the Rent Leveling Officer. The landlord shall, upon written request by the tenants, make all books and records for a period of five years available for inspection.
B. 
Hearings on applications. In conducting hearings for hardship applications, the Rent Leveling Officer shall follow the following standards:
(1) 
In deciding whether this chapter permits a just and reasonable return the Officer shall consider the value of the rental property, the reasonable expense of operating the property, the income, the rate of return on the value of the property actually permitted by the rent regulation and the minimum rate of return which would be just and reasonable for that property. The Officer shall make findings of fact as to the rate of return on the value of the property which the landlord will in fact receive under this chapter. The Officer shall make findings of fact as to that rate of return below which an actual rate of return would be confiscatory. If the rate of return falls below the just and reasonable rate, then the Officer shall grant hardship increases in an amount which will be sufficient to permit an efficient landlord to receive a just and reasonable rate of return.
(2) 
In order to establish the rate of return actually being received under this chapter, the Officer shall deduct reasonable expenses from the gross rental income and then calculate the percentage relationship between the resulting net income and the value of the landlord's property.
(3) 
In order to establish the value of the property, the Officer shall consider the value of the property in a rental housing market free of the aberrant forces which led to the imposition of controls, i.e., the worth of the property in the context of a hypothetical market in which the supply of available rental housing is just adequate to meet the needs of the various categories of persons actively desiring to rent apartments in the Township.
(4) 
In considering expenses the Officer may include, but is not limited to, expenditures for utilities, insurance, maintenance, reasonable repairs, depreciation for capital improvements, taxes, allowances for vacancies and uncollectibles and depreciation on the property.
(5) 
To the extent that this chapter permits surcharges for taxes, the surcharges shall be included in gross income and included as an operating expense or be totally disregarded so that they are excluded from gross income and excluded from operating expenses.
(6) 
Where an unreasonable expense has been incurred by the landlord, the Officer shall reject it and substitute a more reasonable alternative in its place.
(7) 
In evaluating the income permitted, each individually administered apartment complex shall be treated separately. The Rent Leveling Officer shall have the right to allocate the granted increase, if any, to the individual unit.
(8) 
The determination of the minimum rate of return which is constitutionally permitted shall depend upon findings of fact by the Officer. The Officer shall evaluate the interests of the consumer and the general public as well as the interests of the landlord. The just and reasonable rate of return must be high enough to encourage good management including adequate maintenance of services; to furnish a reward for efficiency to discourage the flight of capital from the rental housing market; and to enable operators to maintain and support their credit. In considering a just and reasonable return, the Officer shall consider a return which is generally commensurate with returns on investments in other enterprises having corresponding risks. Additionally, the Officer shall not establish the just and reasonable return so high as to defeat the purposes of rent control nor permit landlords to demand of tenants more than the fair value of the property and services which are provided. The rate need not be established as high as existed prior to regulation nor as high as an investor might obtain by placing his capital elsewhere.
(9) 
Application information. An application for a hardship increase shall include:
(a) 
The name and address of the applicant.
(b) 
The address, lot and block of the premises.
(c) 
A description of the premises including the number of units and the names of the tenants; the present rent for each unit and the date of the commencement of the occupancy of all present tenants.
(d) 
The cost of acquisition and/or construction.
(e) 
A detailed list of all expenses for the last five years.
(f) 
The gross rental for the last five years.
(g) 
A statement of rate of return for the last five years.
(h) 
A statement of the rate of return deemed by the applicant to be a just and reasonable return.
(i) 
A statement of the requested increase for each apartment unit.
(j) 
A certification that the applicant is in substantial compliance with all municipal and state laws and regulations pertaining to the maintenance and servicing of the premises in question.
C. 
Incomplete applications. The application shall be reviewed by the Officer and if it is not complete, the applicant shall be advised in writing within seven days of any deficiencies.
D. 
Hearing on application. The Officer shall schedule a public hearing no later than three weeks after the submission of a complete application and shall thereafter, if required, promptly schedule additional hearing dates. Upon the conclusion of the hearings, the Officer shall, within 14 days, render a written decision which shall include appropriate findings of fact and conclusions conformable to the standards of the within regulations. A copy of the Officer's decision shall be mailed to the parties in interest by regular mail.
E. 
Fee for application. A filing fee as set forth in Chapter 71, Fees, shall be paid with the application for hardship increase. On any other application before the Rent Leveling Officer, there shall be a filing fee as set forth in Chapter 71, Fees.

§ 178-6 Escrow account for professional review fees.

[Added 5-5-2003 by Ord. No. 912; amended 4-25-2016 by Ord. No 1249]
A. 
Upon submission of an application for hardship rent increase and in addition to any other fees established in this chapter, the applicant shall be required to establish an escrow account with the Township of Little Falls. The Little Falls Rent Leveling Officer is authorized to retain without pay from the Township any financial professional, real estate professional or any other professional that the Rent Leveling Officer may require in the processing of those applications. Upon receipt of the hardship rent increase application, the Rent Leveling Officer shall forward to said professional, if it deems it necessary, the application and accompanying documents within seven days of receipt of the application and documents. The professionals shall submit to the Rent Leveling Officer an estimate of funds sufficient in amount to undertake the services to be rendered. The professional shall submit the estimate of funds to the applicant simultaneously. The applicant shall immediately deposit such funds in an escrow account maintained by the Township Treasurer. Prior to drawing monies out of the escrow account, each professional engaged by the Rent Leveling Officer shall submit a voucher in accordance with N.J.S.A. 40A:5-16 et seq. to the Rent Leveling Officer.
B. 
The applicant may appeal, by written request, the amount of the escrow to the governing body. The governing body shall make a determination as to the reasonableness and necessity of the fee. Such appeal must be made within seven days from the date the applicant receives the estimate of funds.
C. 
Should additional funds be required after the original funds are exhausted, the applicant shall place sufficient moneys in the aforesaid escrow account. Any moneys left in the escrow account after the determination of the application shall be returned to the applicant simultaneously with payment of the voucher(s) for the Rent Leveling Officer's professional(s).
D. 
The Rent Leveling Officer shall take no formal action on any hardship rent increase application unless and until escrow funds have been deposited with the Township, and any time limitations set forth in this chapter should be extended until all such escrow funds are deposited with the Township.

§ 178-7 Responsibilities of landlords; deficiencies.

A. 
Standard of service. During the term of this chapter the landlord shall maintain the same standards of service, maintenance, furniture, furnishings, or equipment in the housing space and dwelling as he provided or was required to do by law or lease at the date the lease was entered into.
B. 
Reasonable rental value. An individual tenant or a class of tenants who are not receiving substantially the same standards of service, maintenance, furniture or furnishings or equipment may have the Rent Leveling Officer determine the reasonable rental value of the housing unit or dwelling in view of this deficiency. The tenant or class of tenants shall pay the reasonable rental value as full payment for rent until the landlord proves that the deficiency has been corrected.
[Amended 4-25-2016 by Ord. No 1249]

§ 178-8 Restrictions and exceptions; appeals.

A. 
Restrictions; exceptions. No landlord shall, after May 21, 1973, charge any rents in excess of what he was receiving before then, except for increases authorized by this chapter. The owner of housing space or dwelling being rented for the first time shall not be restricted in the initial rent he charges. Any subsequent rental increases, however, shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter.
B. 
Appeals of Rent Leveling Officer decisions. Any person aggrieved by a final decision of the Rent Leveling Officer shall have a right of appeal to Municipal Council of the Township and thereafter to the Superior Court of New Jersey in accordance with the rules of Court.
[Amended 4-25-2016 by Ord. No 1249]

§ 178-9 Implementation of Senior Citizens and Disabled Protected Tenancy Act.

A. 
Administration. Pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.26, the Rent Leveling Officer is hereby designated to act as the administrative agency.
[Amended 4-25-2016 by Ord. No 1249]
B. 
Powers and responsibilities. The Rent Leveling Officer shall have all of the powers and all of the responsibilities provided by the Senior Citizen and Disabled Protected Tenancy Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.22 et seq.).
[Amended 4-25-2016 by Ord. No 1249]
C. 
Applicability. This section shall be applicable to any applications for conversion filed after the adoption of the section or pending at the time of the introduction of the section.
D. 
Fees. Pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.35, fees as set forth in Chapter 71, Fees, shall be paid as follows:
[Amended 12-20-2004 by Ord. No. 952; 12-22-2008 by Ord. No. 1060]
(1) 
By the landlord/sponsor simultaneously with the service on the Township of a notice of intention. In the case of a notice of intention which has been filed prior to the introduction of this section, and which is pending at the time of the introduction of this section, the fee shall be payable upon billing by the Township.
(2) 
By the appellant upon the filing of an appeal of a determination granting or denying an application for protected tenancy status.

§ 178-10 Effective date. [1]

[Amended by Ord. No. 826; 3-18-2002 by Ord. No. 876; 3-14-2005 by Ord. No. 960; 8-8-2005 by Ord. No. 970]
As amended by Ordinance No. 970, the effective date of this chapter is extended for a period of four years from the date of notice of final passage.
[1]
Editor's Note: Section 3 of Ord. No. 1177, adopted 8-12-2013, stated that "the ordinance to which this ordinance is an amendment is hereby extended for a period of four years from the date of notice of final passage of the within ordinance, unless amended by further action of the Township Council." This chapter was last amended 8-10-2009 by Ord. No. 1078.

§ 178-11 Violations and penalties.

[Amended 4-25-2016 by Ord. No 1249]
A willful violation of any provision of this chapter including, but not limited to, the willful filing with the Rent Leveling Officer of any material misstatement of fact, shall be liable upon conviction, to the penalty stated in Chapter 1, General Provisions, Article I. In addition, treble damages may be sought in a Court of competent jurisdiction. Such fines or damages shall be computed on the basis of a separate violation as to each leasehold.