Borough of Leonia, NJ
Bergen County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Leonia 10-4-1982 by Ord. No. 949 as Ch. 158 of the 1982 Code (Ord. No. 795). Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Affordable housing — See Ch. 72.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
The Borough Council hereby declares that a continuing emergency exists within the Borough of Leonia with respect to the rental of dwelling housing space in multiple-family dwellings. The prior rent regulation was based upon a rent increase formula tied into the consumer price index which was necessitated by spiraling inflationary trends. The governing body has determined new guidelines to provide the landlord with consistent and certain profit from property while promoting consistent and certain rental expectations for tenants in accordance with their capabilities.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
ANNUAL RENTAL INCREASE DATE
The annual anniversary date of the lease.
[Amended 10-15-1990 by Ord. No. 1116]
AVAILABLE FOR RENT TO TENANTS
For habitation as defined by any appropriate Borough ordinance or state law.
DWELLING
Any building or structure rented or offered for rent to two or more tenants or family units, provided that if rented or offered for rent to only two tenants or family units, that the living areas to be rented are part of a structure containing at least one additional area for living or commercial occupancy.
HOUSING SPACE
That portion of a dwelling rented or offered for rent for living and dwelling purposes to one individual or family unit including an individual or family unit employed to superintend or to maintain the premises, together with all connected, appurtenant or related privileges, services, furnishings, furniture, equipment, facilities and improvements, including garaging, parking and storage facilities, rights-of-way, recreational and ornamental facilities.
RENT
The basic consideration paid for use or occupancy of housing space, exclusive of all surcharges.
SURCHARGE
Additional consideration granted to a landlord of dwelling housing space in recognition of additional costs or needs.
TURN OVER
Change of tenants in a dwelling unit subject to this chapter.
VACANCY RATE
The percentage of dwelling units subject to this chapter and available for rent to tenants which are vacant at a given point in time.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
The establishment of rents between the landlord and tenant to whom this chapter is applicable shall be determined by the provisions of this chapter in accordance with limitations, restrictions and prescriptions hereinafter set forth. At the expiration of a lease or at the termination of any tenancy, no landlord may request or receive a percentage increase in rent which is greater than 5% of the monthly rent (except as provided for in § 220-4D) which new rent shall be rounded off to the nearest dollar.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993; 10-15-1990 by Ord. No. 1116]
A. 
Any rent increase for dwelling housing space unit at a time other than at the Annual Rental Increase Date shall be void Any rental increase for dwelling housing space unit in excess of that authorized by the provisions of this chapter shall be void.
B. 
Rent increases shall be computed upon a dwelling-housing-space-unit basis using the base rent established by prior ordinance regulations. However, for the purposes of computing a possible change or correction in rent, the Rent Leveling Board or Administrator shall not calculate beyond a twenty-four-month period prior to the date of request for review.
C. 
No owner or landlord shall increase the rental of any dwelling housing space unit more than once in any twelve-month period. The rent may be increased only after said rental has been in effect for a minimum period of 12 consecutive months except as otherwise provided for in this chapter.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
The landlord shall notify the tenant, in writing, of the proposed increase at least 30 days prior to the expiration of the tenancy or lease, if such an expiration date is fixed therein. If the expiration date is not fixed therein, then the aforesaid notification shall be given according to the law governing the giving of notices to quit and demand for possession for the specific rental period. If notice is not properly given as prescribed by this chapter, the increase is null and void.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
Tenancies at will and at sufferance shall be treated as if they were month-to-month tenancies for the purpose of this chapter.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993; 10-15-1990 by Ord. No. 1116]
For the purposes of establishing rents under this chapter, only a base rental shall be utilized, excluding therefrom any surcharge as provided hereunder.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993; 10-15-1990 by Ord. No. 1116]
A. 
Notwithstanding any limitations upon permissible rent increases under any other provisions of this chapter, upon the voluntary, uncoerced vacation or turn over of any apartment, rent increases for which are controlled in this chapter, the landlord shall have the right to fix the rent for such vacated apartment at such a sum as he deems appropriate.
B. 
Qualification for increase; hearing.
(1) 
In order for a landlord to qualify for the vacancy decontrol rent increase, the landlord shall first be required to file with the Rent Leveling Board a written statement, signed by the vacating tenant, certifying to the Board that the landlord has not, in any way, harassed or pressured the tenant into vacating the housing space unit and that the vacation of such unit was a voluntary act on the part of the tenant. Such noncoercion certification shall not be required in order for the landlord to qualify for the vacancy decontrol increase, if:
(a) 
The increase does not exceed the total of all permissible increases authorized by any other provisions of this chapter.
(b) 
The tenant has moved from the unit without notice to the landlord;
(c) 
The unit has been vacated pursuant to a judicially mandated eviction; or
(d) 
The tenant has refused to sign such certification and, upon appeal by the landlord, the Rent Leveling Board has found that such refusal was unwarranted and that there was in fact no coercion exerted by the landlord upon the vacating tenant.
(2) 
A hearing pursuant to Subsection B(1)(d) above shall be held before the Rent Leveling Board upon at least seven days’ notice to the public and the vacating tenant. The decontrol provision of this section shall only apply to dwelling units which are physically vacated subsequent to the effective date of this section.
C. 
Upon vacation of any apartment hereafter, the landlord shall file a statement with the Rent Leveling Board, certifying to the Board:
(1) 
The apartment and building numbers of such dwelling unit.
(2) 
The rent paid by the vacating tenant.
(3) 
The maximum rent increase which would be permissible under the other provisions of this chapter.
(4) 
The number of days such apartment remains vacant. As used herein, vacant shall mean unoccupied but available for rent to tenants.
(5) 
The rent agreed to by the new tenant for such apartment.
(6) 
That the vacation of such apartment was the voluntary act of the vacating tenant and that such vacation was not the result of landlord harassment or pressure upon such vacating tenant.
D. 
After a vacated apartment has been rented under this provision, it shall once again fall under usual provisions of this chapter.
[Amended 10-15-1990 by Ord. No. 1116]
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
A. 
The Borough Administrator or a person designated by the Borough Administrator shall serve as an Enforcement Officer. The Enforcement Officer shall have the power to enforce this chapter by issuing complaints in the Municipal Court for violation of this chapter.
B. 
The Board shall give both landlord and tenant reasonable opportunity to be heard before making any determination.
C. 
The Borough Administrator be and he is hereby authorized to assign an existing employee of the Borough as an administrative assistant to the Enforcement Officer in order to assist said Officer in the performance of his or her duties. Such administrative assistant shall coordinate the receipt of all reports required by this chapter and, in addition, shall make initial investigations as to all violations of this chapter, reporting the same back to the Enforcement Officer for action. Said administrative assistant shall have such other and further duties as may be determined by the Rent Leveling Board with the consent of the Borough Administrator and consistent with law.
D. 
In the event that a landlord fails to file such report or in the event that the landlord files a report which is knowingly or willfully false, such failure to file or filing of such false report shall be deemed a separate violation of this chapter, punishable pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.
[Added 10-15-1990 by Ord. No. 1116]
E. 
Maintain a record of the actual rentals of all apartments subject to the provisions of this chapter and shall notify and require all landlords of such apartments to file such reports in furtherance thereof. The rental records supplied to or requested by the Board shall separately indicate the base rent, any real estate, capital improvements, service or tax surcharges.
[Added 10-15-1990 by Ord. No. 1116]
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993; 5-8-1989 by Ord. No. 1082]
There is hereby created a Rent Leveling Board. This Board shall consist of three tenants, three landlords and three residential owners of property in the Borough of Leonia. All members of the Board shall be appointed by the Borough Council for a maximum term of three years. An owner of a residential condominium or cooperative shall be eligible to serve as a member to the Rent Leveling Board in the category of residential owner of property. Nothing herein provided shall interfere or interrupt the incumbent Board members from completing the balance of their respective terms of office. The terms of all members first appointed under this chapter shall be so determined so that to the greatest practical extent their terms shall be distributed evenly over the first three years after their appointment. The affairs and business of the Board shall be managed by a Chairperson and, in his or her stead, a Vice Chairperson, who shall be elected by the Board. The Chairperson of the Board shall preside at all meetings, sign all determinations duly made by the Board, assure that the provisions of this chapter and the rules and regulations adopted by the Rent Leveling Board are enforced and perform all other duties incident to that person’s position.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993; 10-15-1990 by Ord. No. 1116]
The Rent Leveling Board is hereby granted and shall have and exercise, in addition to other powers granted herein, all the powers necessary and appropriate to carry out and execute the purposes of this chapter, including but not limited to the power to:
A. 
Supply information and assistance to landlords and tenants to help them comply with the provisions of this chapter, including all necessary statistical information of the computation of proper rental increases and tax and service surcharges.
B. 
Hold hearings and adjudicate hardship and capital improvement applications from landlords for additional rent or surcharges. Hearings for all other applications shall be adjudicated by the governing body.
C. 
Hold hearings and adjudicate applications from tenants for reduced rental or surcharges.
D. 
The Secretary of the Rent Leveling Board shall compile a report of the rental housing conditions in Leonia. Said report shall include the number of apartments vacated during the previous year along with the computated vacancy rate, as well as all other information which may be necessary.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
In furtherance of its duties and in the exercise of its responsibilities and powers, as described in § 220-14 of this chapter, the Rent Leveling Board shall adopt, within 30 days of the effective date of this chapter, such rules and regulations for its operation, as will be sufficient to standardize the order of business at all meetings of the Board, as well as proceedings before the Board, whether by way of just and reasonable rate of return application or by way of complaint, and shall, as part of these regulations, adopt a uniform set of procedures for the advertisement of its public meetings at least five days prior thereto, for service of official notices, for the filing of all pleadings and notices before the Board, for the preservation for appeal of all exhibits presented to the Board, for the recording of the adopted minutes of the Board and for the filing of such minutes and all decisions of the Board in the office of the Borough Clerk
[Added 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
Both landlord and tenant may appeal the findings of the Board to the governing body within 20 days from the date of said determination and request the hearing thereof by the governing body.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
A. 
A landlord may seek a surcharge from a tenant or tenants for capital improvements made in or attributable to the dwelling housing space. Any landlord seeking such a surcharge shall first notify each tenant by regular mail and by posting a copy of the notification conspicuously in a common area at least five days prior to the application, which notification shall include a description of the proposed capital improvement, total cost of the proposed capital improvement, and the amount of the monthly increase with its supporting computations, as set forth in § 220-17 of this chapter. Provided that the tenant has received notice of a proposed capital improvement in conformance with the requirements of this section, he shall have 30 days following receipt of such notice in which to file any objection thereto with the Rent Leveling Board and if no such objection is filed within said thirty-day period, a tenant shall be deemed to have waived his right to object thereto. The Rent Leveling Board created under this chapter shall have the power to stay the imposition of the surcharge, pending its final determination thereof as the interest of justice would so require. The landlord shall estimate the time of completion of the capital improvement and present proof of costs upon completion. The Rent Leveling Board must review and certify all capital improvement increases.
[Amended 10-15-1990 by Ord. No. 1161
B. 
A landlord may seek a surcharge after completion of a capital improvement. Notice shall be provided by the landlord, and the tenant shall have opportunity to object, all as set forth above. No greater or lesser consideration shall be given to the applicant by the Board because of the fact that the application is made subsequent to the projects completion. Any landlord who shall make application for a capital improvement surcharge after accomplishment of the project shall do so at his or her own risk that a surcharge will be granted.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993; 10-15-1990 by Ord. No. 1116]
For the purposes of this section, a capital 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 as depreciable expense by the Internal Revenue Service. Capital improvement: A capital improvement must be something other than a repair, reconstruction, or rehabilitation of the dwelling to its original condition, or for the purposes of maintenance, whether or not mandated by law. It must consist of a substantial change in housing accommodations, such as would increase the rental value in a normal market, or appreciably prolong the life of the building. The substantial change in the property must also be a benefit to the tenants thereof. Benefits to the tenants is described as some additional benefit in living conditions not previously accorded by lease or other agreement. The amount of the monthly increase which a landlord may charge shall be determined as follows: the total amount of the cost of the capital improvement as allowed by the Internal Revenue Service shall be divided by the depreciation period allowed by the Internal Revenue Service. That annual amount so obtained shall be prorated among all tenants in accordance with the formula provided in Article IV[1], and all such rent increases shall be charged for no period greater than the original depreciation period of said improvement, without regard to subsequent adjustments in the basis of the dwelling housing space.
[1]
Editor’s Note: Original Article IV, Tax Surcharge, which provided that the landlord could seek a tax surcharge from a tenant because of an increase in municipal property taxes and that said increase in property taxes was to be divided by the number of all rented rooms in the dwelling house space to obtain the tax increase per room, was repealed 7-5-1978 by Ord. No. 827. For current provisions pertaining to apportionment of surcharges among tenants, see § 220-25.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
In addition to or in conjunction with rent increases and surcharges permitted by this chapter, the Rent Leveling Board may grant a surcharge to ensure that the landlord may obtain a just and reasonable rate of return. The determination of what constitutes a just and reasonable return shall be made by the Board, based upon the following conditions:
A. 
Application is made to the Board on forms provided by the Board.
B. 
The landlord has notified the tenant, by regular mail and by posting a notice conspicuously in a common area at least five days prior to a hearing before the Rent Leveling Board, of the intention to make such application, and the tenant has been allowed 30 days in which to object or otherwise respond thereto.
C. 
The application of the landlord is considered by the Board at a pubic meeting after notice of such hearing has been given by the Board to the interested tenants at least 15 days prior thereto.
D. 
The landlord has made a complete disclosure of all relevant information, financial or otherwise, to the Board.
E. 
A specific determination is made by the Board that the claimed expenses are usual or, if extraordinary, that they have been incurred by the landlord, in good faith and not arbitrarily and for a purpose related to the operation, maintenance or improvement of the subject premises and not for the purpose of seeking additional revenue in circumvention of the proscriptions of this chapter.
F. 
The purchase price paid for the property was reasonably warranted by the then existing rents and operations costs and/or that unreasonably high costs resulting from the financing of the purchase or the refinancing of any existing mortgage did not cause said hardship or result in the landlord’s inability to achieve a fair and reasonable return on his investment. Where the Board determines that the landlord’s inability to meet his mortgage payments and maintenance costs or inability to obtain a just and reasonable rate of return on his investment is due in part to purchase in excess of the fair market value of the property or to unreasonably high costs incurred by the landlord as a result of the financing or refinancing of the property, it may grant such portion of the increase requested for just and reasonable rate of return as was not made necessary by the landlord’s own improvidence or unreasonable actions. The granting of such an increase hereunder shall become and merge with the base rent paid by the tenant to the landlord and shall not be treated as a surcharge as that term is defined in § 220-2.
G. 
No such surcharge shall be granted unless the landlord produces all the documentary evidence which may be requested by the Board to make the determinations herein required, including but not limited to true copies of all deeds, mortgages, notes or bonds, appraisals, income and expense statements, rent rolls (at the time of purchase or financing or refinancing of the mortgage and at the time of appeal) and all bills, invoices and federal and state tax returns.
H. 
A specific determination is made by the Board that the landlord has maintained the services and premises as set forth in § 220-17 and § 220-18.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
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 bylaw or lease at the date the lease was entered into.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
A landlord who desires to increase or to improve the standards of service as described in § 220-17 beyond the level required by law or lease at the date the lease was entered into may apply to the Rent Leveling Board for standard of service surcharge. Prior to such application, the landlord shall first give notice of his intention to his tenants, by regular mail and by posting a notice conspicuously in a common area at least five days prior to the application, and the tenants shall have 30 days to object or otherwise respond thereto. The Rent Leveling Board may grant such an increase after a public hearing following at least 15 days notice to the tenants of such hearing; provided, however, that before granting such a surcharge, the Board shall first determine specifically the costs of the increased service, the necessity of such service or its potential benefit to the tenants, and in no event shall the Board award a service surcharge per month which exceeds 5% of the tenant’s monthly rent. A maintenance surcharge shall not be considered rent for purposes of future rental increases.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993; 11-10-1986 by Ord. No. 1036]
No landlord of any dwelling housing space unit shall after the effective date of this chapter, charge, serve notice of, disseminate, publish, or attempt to charge any rents or any fees, assessments, payments, prices, or other charges or amounts whatsoever for any right or interest in any lease or leasehold in excess of what he was receiving from the effective date of this chapter except for increases as authorized by this chapter. Nothing herein contained shall be deemed to prohibit any charge in connection with the purchase of a fee simple interest in premises converted to a condominium or with the purchase of shares of a corporation that holds a fees simple interest in premises converted to a cooperative which is offered to a tenant pursuant to P.L. 1977 c. 419 (N.J.S.A. 45:22A-21 et seq.).
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
The owner of dwelling housing space being rented for the first time shall not be restricted in the initial rent charged by the owner; provided, however, that this freedom from restriction shall apply only to an area not previously rented or to new construction and is specifically not intended to include a renovated area.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
Tenancies at will and at sufferance shall be treated as if they were month-to-month tenancies for the purpose of this chapter.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
Upon the determination by the Rent Leveling Board that a landlord has violated the provisions of this chapter, and that such violation may be common to other rental units, it shall be incumbent upon the landlord to correct the same or similar violations for all tenants in the building or complex. The Rent Leveling Board shall notify the landlord of his violation and request a certification by the landlord that no similar violations exist within the building or complex. If the landlord has not submitted such certification 30 days after the Rent Leveling Board’s notification, the landlord shall be in violation of this chapter and subject to the penalties of § 220-23.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
A willful violation of any provision of this chapter including but not limited to the willful filing with the Rent Leveling Board of any material misstatement of facts, shall be punishable as provided in Chapter 1, Article I, General Penalty. A violation affecting more than one leasehold shall be construed as a separate violation as to each leasehold.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
This chapter being necessary for the welfare of the Borough and its inhabitation is remedial and shall be liberally construed to effect the purposes thereof.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993; 10-15-1990 by Ord. No. 1116]
A. 
Wherever a surcharge is to be apportioned among tenants, the landlord shall divide the increase by the square footage in a dwelling unit to obtain the surcharge per tenant.
B. 
Notification of tenant of surcharge. The landlord shall notify the tenant of:
(1) 
The square footage in the dwelling;
(2) 
The square footage occupied by the tenant and the maximum allowable surcharge for each tenant;
(3) 
The permitted length of the surcharge imposition.
C. 
Rebate of tax surcharge.
(1) 
In the event that a landlord successfully appeals a property tax increase, the landlord shall rebate to the tenants 50% of such tax reduction where said tenants were billed a tax surcharge pursuant to Subsections A and B.
(2) 
The rebate shall be apportioned among the tenants. The landlord shall divide the rebate by the number of all rented rooms in the dwelling house space to obtain the rebate per room.
(3) 
Within 30 days of the date of the judgment of decrease in property taxes, the landlord shall notify the tenant in writing the following:
(a) 
The amount of the landlord’s reduction in property taxes.
(b) 
The amount of the allowable rebate for each tenant.
[Added 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993; Amended 10-15-1990 by Ord. No. 1116]
A. 
The following fees shall apply to all applications or other proceedings requested pursuant to this chapter:
(1) 
Application fee for tenant’s request for written determination: $10.
(2) 
Application fee for tenant’s request for oral hearing: $20.
(3) 
Application fee for landlord’s request for hardship increase or capital improvement surcharge: minimum of $200.
B. 
Refiling for hearing.
(1) 
If an applicant should fail to attend a scheduled hearing that they have requested, without affording the Rent Leveling Board an opportunity to cancel said hearing, and without good cause, said applicant must reapply for a hearing.
(2) 
The cost for such refiling shall be $100.
(3) 
The Rent Leveling Board shall have the power to waive the subsequent refiling fee if the applicant has missed the hearing for good cause.
[Amended 7-5-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
This chapter shall take effect immediately upon passage and publication as required bylaw. Annually, the Borough Administrator shall prepare a report as to the existence of an emergency housing situation in the Borough and as to the effectiveness of the operation of this chapter, which shall be submitted to the governing body during the month of April. The governing body shall consider the report and make determination as to whether this chapter shall continue and/or be modified.
[Amended 5-7-1984 by Ord. No. 993]
Ordinance Nos. 705 and 741, as amended, are hereby repealed; provided, however, that all pending appeals filed thereunder shall be continued to a final determination applying the substitute provisions of the ordinance or the respective ordinance, whichever is applicable, and all pending complaints for violations of Ordinance Nos. 705 and 741, as amended, in the Municipal Court of Leonia, as of the effective date of this chapter, shall not be affected by this section, but shall continue to be a final adjudication. All regulations contained herein shall be retroactive to the expiration of Ordinance No. 741, as amended. In that rent regulation is to be a continuing process, this chapter shall be interpreted to so continue a smooth transition of regulation.