Township of Union, NJ
Union County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Union 4-23-1985 by Ord. No. 3779 (Ch. 212 of the 1986 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Certificates of occupancy for rental property — See Ch. 221, Art. I.

§ 421-1 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 statutes, codes and ordinances in full force and effect in the State of New Jersey, County of Union and Township of Union, and occupied or unoccupied and offered for rent.
BASE RENT
Rental period for the housing space exclusive of capital improvement surcharges, hardship surcharges or any other surcharge which may be allowable under this chapter.
DWELLING
Includes any building or structure or 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 of two units or less, and all buildings which are presently subject to rent control or rent stabilization by the governments of the United States or the State of New Jersey. Housing units newly constructed or rented for the first time to any tenant are likewise exempt and the initial rent may be determined by the landlord.
HOUSING SPACE
Includes 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.
JUST CAUSE
Action on the part of the landlord in refusing to let, rent, rerent or rerent to a tenant, or basis for dispossess for any one or more of the following:
A. 
Failure on the part of the tenant to pay rent due and owing under the lease, whether the same be oral or written.
B. 
Disorderly or disturbing noises or conduct on the part of the tenant that destroys the peace and tranquility of the landlord, other tenants or other persons living in or about the neighborhood.
C. 
Intentional or persistent neglect, damage or injury by the tenant to the property of the landlord.
D. 
Constant violation by the tenant of the rules and regulations of the landlord, if signed by the tenant or incorporated in the lease, with a copy being given to the tenant.
E. 
Substantial breach of the terms and conditions of the lease agreement by the tenant.
F. 
The owner seeks to occupy premises himself.
G. 
The owner seeks to close the premises down without permitting any further occupancy.

§ 421-2 Establishment of rents.

[Amended 3-8-1994 by Ord. No. 4297]
A. 
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. At the expiration of a lease, or at the termination of the lease of a periodic tenant, no landlord may request or receive an increase in rent of more than 4% over and above the base rent paid by said tenant during the leasehold period. For a periodic tenant whose lease terms shall be less than one year, said tenant shall not suffer or be caused to pay any rent increase in any calendar year which exceeds the aforementioned 4% for the calendar year prior thereto. The effective date of any lease, regardless of the date of the instrument shall be the date of taking possession.
B. 
Where the total number of dwelling units exceed 500 units, the following shall apply:
[Added 9-13-2005 by Ord. No. 4893]
(1) 
The permitted rent increase in this section shall be 8.0%.
(2) 
For those units rented after the adoption of this subsection, no rent control shall apply provided that the landlord sets forth in a conspicuous manner that rent control of the Township of Union does not apply to this unit.

§ 421-3 Rental increase to be void.

Any rental increase at a time of 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. No charge, except those specifically authorized by this chapter, shall be allowed in connection with any rental.

§ 421-4 Landlords seeking increases.

Any landlord seeking an increase in rent shall notify the tenant no less than 30 days prior to the proposed increase by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by personal service, provided that the landlord obtains the tenant's signature acknowledging receipt of said notice, of the calculations involved in computing the increase, the allowable percentage increase and the allowable rental increase.

§ 421-5 Tax surcharges by reason of increase in property tax.

A. 
A landlord shall not be entitled to nor receive any tax surcharge by reason of increase in municipal property taxes.
B. 
In the event that the landlord is successful in the prosecution of a tax appeal for the reduction of municipal taxes, the tenants shall be entitled to and receive from the landlord an allowance or refund of 50% of said tax reduction after deducting the expenses incurred by the landlord in prosecuting said appeal. The landlord shall serve notice within 50 days after final determination and judgment of said tax appeal upon all those tenants who were tenants in said premises at the time the tax appeal was filed. The notice to tenants shall set forth in detail the amount constituting the judgment reducing the municipal taxes; the reduction in dollars and cents; the particular expenses incurred by the landlord in prosecution of the tax appeal; and the calculation showing the apportionment and the particular amount due to each tenant as a refund or allowance. The refund or allowance shall be paid in lump sum or in six monthly installments, beginning 60 days after the final determination or judgment of the tax appeal.

§ 421-6 Capital improvements.

A. 
An improvement shall be an improvement which is depreciable pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code of the United States and rules and regulations promulgated thereunder and allowed depreciable expense by the Internal Revenue Service.
B. 
"Capital improvement" means capital which is expended by a landlord in the nature of investment for the improvement of the dwelling made with the expectation of its useful existence for an indefinite period into the future in which will inure in a significant degree to the benefit of the tenants thereof and which is not required to be provided by contractual obligations between the landlord and tenant or by state and local law.
C. 
"Capital improvement" means capital which is expended by landlord in the nature of an investment for the improvement of the dwelling made with the expectation of its useful existence for an indefinite period into the future, which service is not previously provided to the tenant.
D. 
"Capital improvement" means capital which is expended by the landlord in the nature of an investment for the improvement of the dwelling made with the expectation of its useful existence for an indefinite period into the future, which investment does not simply replace the existing facility but in fact improves the facility by the use of improved or better material as the provision of upgraded or improved facility. A capital improvement surcharge shall be limited to the difference between the cost of the improved facility and the cost of simply replacing the existing facility.
E. 
Useful life.
(1) 
The useful life of the capital improvements shall be determined by the depreciable life of the improvement as set forth in the Internal Revenue Code and rules and regulations promulgated thereunder.
(2) 
The useful life of the capital improvement shall be determined by the Rent Leveling Board after hearing testimony as to the depreciable life of the items, the useful life of the items and any guaranties on the items. The depreciable period used for the calculation of any capital improvement surcharge shall not be less than the longer of the aforementioned items.
(3) 
The useful life of the capital improvement shall be determined by the actual useful life of the improvement without reference to artificial schedules of depreciation.
(4) 
The landlord shall file a completed application, on whatever forms the Board may specify, a minimum of 30 days in advance of a proposed hearing, with the Rent Board Secretary. The Board Secretary shall schedule said matter for hearing as soon as practicable, but not less than 30 days nor more than 65 days from the date of the filing of a completed application. The landlord shall notify all affected tenants of the proposed hearing date by personal service, or certified mail, at least 30 days in advance of the proposed hearing date. The landlord shall promptly file proof of service with the Rent Board Secretary upon completion of services.
(5) 
The landlord shall supply the following information to the Rent Board at the time of filing the application and shall serve the same upon all affected tenants, together with the meeting notice:
(a) 
Total cost of the improvement.
(b) 
Total square footage of the rental premises.
(c) 
Square footage occupied by the individual tenant.
(d) 
Projected useful life of the improvement and depreciable life of the improvement for Internal Revenue Service.
(e) 
Cost of improvement per square foot on a monthly basis.
(f) 
Projected monthly cost to tenant of capital improvement surcharge.
(6) 
In addition, the applicant shall supply the following information with his application to the Rent Board and shall notify each tenant that this information is available for review, for at least 30 days prior to the hearing, at a designated place on the rental premises, at least five days per week between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., as well as a minimum of one evening per week for at least three hours.
(a) 
Invoices showing the total cost of the improvement.
(b) 
Copies of proof of payment (canceled checks, etc.).
(c) 
Proof of competitive bids for the work.
(d) 
Copies of any and all building permits, final inspection reports and any and all other records of inspection of the improvement.
(e) 
A copy of the contract awarded for the improvement.
(f) 
Copies of any guaranties associated with the improvements.
(g) 
The cost of simple replacement of the facility.
(7) 
Upon completion of a hearing, the Rent Board may award a capital improvement surcharge. The Board shall determine the total costs of the increase, but no interest shall be awarded in the event that the cost of the improvement is financed. The Board shall consider the useful life of the improvements, the depreciable life of the improvement, to determine the total square footage of the rental property, as well as the portion allocable to each tenant. The Board shall determine the total cost of the improved facility, as well as the cost of replacing the previously existing facility, and shall calculate the difference in cost between the two. The difference may be allocated among the affected tenants as a capital improvement surcharge.
(8) 
The capital improvement surcharge, if approved by the Board, shall be paid on a monthly basis, with the total cost of the improvement allocated proportionately in accordance with the relationship that the square footage occupied by the tenant bears to the total square footage of the premises, allocated over the useful life of the improvement as found by the Board.
Sample Calculation
Factors
Amount
Cost of improvement
$6,000
Useful life
5 years
Percent of space occupied by tenant
25%
Cost per year
$1,200
25% to tenant
$300
Per month/60 months
$25
(9) 
In no event shall the monthly payment for a capital improvement surcharge exceed 10% of the current base rent.
(10) 
No capital improvement surcharge shall be collected, unless the same has been approved by the Rent Board. No capital improvement surcharge shall be included in base rent for the purpose of calculating yearly rental increases.
(11) 
Any improvement which merely improves the appearance of the property, but does not extend or enhance the useful life of the premises, such as improved landscaping, shall not qualify as a capital improvement under the terms of this chapter.
(12) 
Anything in the foregoing sections notwithstanding, the useful life of capital improvements, if allowed by the Board, shall not be less than the following schedule:
Capital Improvement
Years
Masonry, brickwork, paving
25
Boilers or new heating systems, plumbing, pumps or components, plumbing or heating systems
25
Storm windows
25
Roofs
20
Electrical work, including the installation of smoke detectors and air conditioners
25
Trucks and automobiles, tractors, lawn mowers and motorized ground maintenance equipment
5
Office equipment and furnishings
15
Stoves and refrigerators
20
Dumpsters and component parts
25
Insulation and vinyl peaks or siding
40

§ 421-7 Hardship rent increase.

A. 
In the event that a landlord's annual residential operating expenses, as hereinafter defined, exceeds 60% of his gross annual residential income as hereinafter defined, then the landlord may submit to the Rent Leveling Board an application for a hardship rental increase. No landlord may apply for additional hardship relief while he is collecting a prior hardship award.
B. 
For the purposes of this section, the term "gross annual residential income" is defined as all annual income derived directly or indirectly from the operation of the landlord's property, including but not limited to all residential rents received, all earnings from commissions from vending machines, laundry equipment and supplies, deductions from security deposits, late fees, key charges, finder's fees, parking fees, garage fees, pool fees, income from rebates, capital improvement income derived from any moneys collected from this property in excess of those moneys required to pay expenses on this property, including but not limited to interest on bank accounts, money market investments, certificates of deposit and net proceeds of refinancing. The landlord, as part of his application, shall indicate any and all bank accounts in which rent proceeds are deposited, including the name of the bank, name of the account, number of the account, type of account and disbursement of any funds which are not expended to pay operating expenses on the premises. The Rent Leveling Board may request and the landlord shall supply documentation supporting the gross annual income as dated in the landlord's application. In any case, where rental units are occupied, in whole or in part, rent free, the full rental value shall be considered the legal rent therefor for the purposes of setting forth the gross annual residential income.
C. 
For the purposes of this section, the term "annual residential operating expenses" is defined as all reasonable, necessary and valid expenses (as determined by the Rent Leveling Board) incurred and paid by a landlord for the rental property for which a hardship increase is requested, excluding therefrom, however, depreciation, mortgage interest and amortization, expenses associated with hardship applications, which expenses shall be separately itemized, expenses associated with the refinancing of any mortgage affecting the premises, legal fees except those fees for summary dispossess actions or for lease preparation, which fees may be included as expenses, interest on any other loan in connection with the premises, expenditures which may qualify as capital improvements and including but not limited to expenses for supplies, administrative costs, management fees limited to 5% of gross rental, heating fuel, electricity, water supply, sewerage charges, garbage disposal, gas, building services, security, grounds maintenance, repairs (other than reimbursed repairs), painting and decorating, real estate taxes, other taxes, permit fees, insurance, wages and recreational amenities. Only annual, residential operating expenses, which are reasonable, ordinary and necessary, shall be allowed. Extraordinary or onetime expenses shall not be considered as part of hardship expenses, except that capital expenditures which previously have been amortized as part of a hardship application shall continue to be considered as annual residential operating expenses until said capital expenditures are fully amortized. Any capital expenditure which has not been amortized as part of a hardship application, regardless of when it was incurred, shall not be considered as an operating expense for purposes of a hardship application. With the exception of the foregoing capital expenditures, only ordinary residential operating expenses incurred in the twelve-month period ending with the last day of the month immediately prior to the filing of the hardship application shall be considered.
D. 
Where nonresidential income is received in connection with the property, the landlord shall, in addition to the above, furnish the Rent Leveling Board with the income and expenses related to said nonresidential uses for the purposes of determining the effect thereof on the hardship application of the landlord.
E. 
The landlord shall supply complete income and operating expense figures for the three-year period immediately preceding the date of the application, which figure shall be compiled in three one-year compilations. These figures shall be certified by a professional certified public accountant licensed in the State of New Jersey, except that in the case of rental property with less than 10 units, the figures may be certified by a sole proprietor, partner if a partnership or a corporate officer if a corporation, to be a true and accurate summary of the landlord's books and records.
F. 
A public hearing on said application shall be scheduled to be held not earlier than 60 days of the date of receipt of a completed application, at which time the Rent Leveling Board and landlord and the tenants and/or their respective agents or representatives shall be given an opportunity to be heard. Hardship surcharges shall, except as specifically provided herein, be collectible for a period of 12 months beginning with the date of notice of said surcharge in conformity with applicable state law. Charges for hardships shall not be considered additions to the base rent for purposes of computing rental increases pursuant to § 421-2 hereof. No hardship surcharge currently in effect shall be collected for a period of more than 12 consecutive months. Anything to the foregoing notwithstanding, no hardship award shall exceed 10% of the tenants' current base rent, the Board shall prorate the award over a period exceeding 12 months, effectuating a full hardship award but insuring that a single monthly payment shall not exceed 10% of the current base rent.
G. 
The landlord shall notify each tenant of the subject property by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by personal service, of the date, time and place of the public hearing and of the substance of the landlord's application at least 30 days prior to the hearing and provide proof of service to the Rent Leveling Board.
H. 
Notice of hearings.
(1) 
In addition to the provisions in Subsection F above, notice of the time, date and place of the hearing shall be given by the landlord, at his expense, in the form of a public notice published in two newspapers circulating within the municipality. Said notice shall appear at least 10 days prior to the date of the hearing. Upon submission of an application, the applicant shall be required to establish an escrow account in a sum equal to $20 per apartment unit in the affected premises, with the Township of Union.
(2) 
Upon receipt of an application for relief, the Board shall forthwith send a copy thereof to any professional experts retained to assist the Board in processing of said application.
(3) 
The applicant shall forthwith deposit such funds in the escrow account maintained by the Tax Collector of the Township of Union. The professional experts shall submit vouchers for all reasonable and necessary fees for the professional services rendered, which fees shall be paid from the escrow account in the manner prescribed by N.J.S.A. 40:5-16 through 40:5-18.
(4) 
The professional expert shall, at the time of submission of any such voucher, forward a copy of the same to the applicant. In the event that the applicant questions the reasonableness of any such voucher the applicant shall, not later than five days after receipt of a copy of said voucher, make written protest of such voucher to the Board. In no event shall the Board authorize the payment of any voucher submitted pursuant to this section sooner than 10 days from its submission.
(5) 
Any of the aforesaid moneys left in the escrow account upon completion of the application shall be returned to the applicant as soon as is practicably possible.
(6) 
Should additional funds be required after the original funds are exhausted and should such funds be deemed necessary in the judgment of the Board, then such funds shall be paid by the applicant to the Tax Collector of the Township of Union and placed in the escrow account.
(7) 
The Board shall take no formal action on any application, unless and until all escrow funds have been deposited with the Tax Collector of the Township of Union.
I. 
The Rent Leveling Board shall either grant or deny the application no later than the next subsequent meeting.
J. 
If a landlord has been in violation of the chapter, then the tenant shall have a remedy to receive a refund for any overcharge retroactive to two years from the date of the complaint.
K. 
The tenant shall be immuned against eviction notices or other harassment by the landlord while the Board is reviewing the complaint by the tenant.

§ 421-8 Rent Leveling Board.

[Amended 7-26-1988 by Ord. No. 3977]
A. 
There is hereby created a Rent Leveling Board within the Township of Union. Said Board shall consist of seven members, one of whom shall be a landlord, two of whom shall be tenants and the remaining four of whom shall be not either a tenant or a landlord of residential real estate. The members of said Board shall be appointed by the Township Committee, and the terms of office shall be for a period of three years; however, the members of the Board first appointed hereunder shall have terms as follows:
(1) 
Three for three years each, one landlord, one tenant and one nonlandlord nontenant.
(2) 
Two for two years each, one tenant and one nonlandlord tenant.
(3) 
Two for one year only, two nonlandlord nontenant.
B. 
In addition to the above members of said Rent Leveling Board, the Township Committee is authorized to appoint one alternate for each of the categories identified as "tenant" and not to be either a tenant or a landlord, in order that there will be an alternate for the "tenant" category and for what constitutes the public category, which said alternates shall serve in the absence of their respective category member or members. The term of office of each of said alternates shall be for a period of one year from the date of appointment.

§ 421-9 Authority of Board.

The Rent Leveling Board is hereby granted and shall have and exercise, in addition to other powers herein granted, all the powers necessary and appropriate to carry out and execute the purposes of this chapter, including but not limited to the following:
A. 
To issue and promulgate such rules and regulations as it deems necessary to implement the purposes of this chapter, which rules and regulations shall have the force of law until revised, repealed or amended from time to time by the Board in the exercise of its discretion, provided that such rules are filed with the Township Clerk.
B. 
To supply information and assistance to landlords and tenants to help them comply with the provisions of this chapter.
C. 
To hold hearings and adjudicate applications from landlords for additional rental as herein provided.
D. 
To hold hearings and adjudicate applications from tenants for reduced rental as herein provided.
E. 
To subpoena any and all records, documentary evidence, witness testimony and any and all other information necessary to the rendering of a decision by the Board.

§ 421-10 Quorum at meetings.

A quorum for the purpose of conducting a meeting or acting upon matters before the Board shall require the attendance of a majority of the membership of the Board.

§ 421-11 Appeal of findings.

Both the landlord and tenant may appeal the findings of the Board to the proper courts in accordance with the rules pertaining to administrative appeals. The findings and rulings of said court shall be final.

§ 421-12 Tenants aggrieved by noncompliance.

A tenant who is aggrieved by the failure of a landlord to comply with the terms of the chapter may file for a hearing with the Board.

§ 421-13 Considerations of Board.

For the purposes of considering the reasonableness of the rents being charged on an appeal by the landlord or the tenant, the Board shall take into consideration whether the landlord has maintained the same standards of service, maintenance, health and safety conditions, furniture, furnishing and equipment in and for the rented housing space and dwelling as the landlord provided at the date the tenancy was entered into or as required by the current health, safety and housing laws and regulations. The Board may reduce the base rent of any tenant, in the event that the landlord reduces the standards of services, maintenance, health and safety conditions, furniture, furnishings and equipment which were provided at the outset of the tenancy.

§ 421-14 Rents authorized by landlord.

No landlord shall, after the effective date of this chapter, charge any rents in excess of what he was receiving from the effective date of this chapter, except for increases as authorized by this chapter.

§ 421-15 Violations and penalties.

[Amended 10-28-1986 by Ord. No. 3879; 12-13-1988 by Ord. No. 3998[1]]
A violation of any of the provisions of this chapter, including, but not limited to, the willful filing with the Rent Leveling Board of any material misstatement of fact, shall be punishable by one or more of the following: imprisonment in the county jail or in any other place provided by the municipality for the detention of prisoners for any term not exceeding 90 days or by a fine not exceeding $1,250 or by a period of community service not exceeding 90 days, to become effective on the effective date of this section. A violation affecting more than one leasehold shall be considered a separate violation as to each leasehold.
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. I).

§ 421-16 Purpose of legislation.

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

§ 421-17 Exclusions.

[Added 10-25-2016 by Ord. No. 5402; amended 2-28-2017 by Ord. No. 5418]
A. 
The rent control provisions of Chapter 421 shall no longer apply to the Crossroads Garden Apartments Rehabilitation Area subject to the terms and conditions of this § 421-17. For purposes of this section, the phrase "Crossroads Garden Apartments Rehabilitation Area" is defined as the property commonly known as "Block 405, Lots 19 and 57" on the Tax Map of the Township of Union that has been designated as an area in need of rehabilitation pursuant to the "Local Redevelopment and Housing Law," P.L. 1992, c. 79 (N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-1 et seq.).
B. 
The exclusion of the Crossroads Garden Apartments Rehabilitation Area from the rent control provisions is explicitly limited by and conditioned upon the following:
(1) 
Capital improvements made or caused to be made by the landlord into the Crossroads Garden Apartments Rehabilitation Area in an amount at least equal to $5,000 per unit;
(2) 
The capital improvements shall be made to the Crossroads Garden Apartments Rehabilitation Area within 10 years of the effective date of this section;
(3) 
The exclusion from the rent control provisions in this § 421-17 shall not apply to any current tenants who have been residents of the Crossroads Garden Apartments Rehabilitation Area for at least 10 years as of the effective date of this section, and such long-term residents shall remain subject to the protections and administrative relief of Chapter 421 for so long as they remain tenants within the Crossroads Garden Apartments Rehabilitation Area; and
(4) 
The landlord shall provide notice of the passage of this section and the exclusion of the Crossroads Garden Apartments Rehabilitation Area from the provisions of Chapter 421 of the Code of the Township of Union, including the terms and conditions thereunder, to all residents within the Chapter 421 of the Code of the Township of Union within 30 days of the effective date of this section.
C. 
In the event the conditions of § 421-17B are not satisfied, the exclusion granted in this § 421-17 shall terminate automatically and the full provisions of Chapter 421 shall be reinstated and applied to the Crossroads Garden Apartments Rehabilitation Area with no further action of the Township or the Rent Leveling Board.