[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Dumont 8-17-2010 by Ord. No. 1414. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also repealed former Ch. 322, Rent Control, adopted by Ord. No. 877 (Secs. 11A-1 through 11A-9 of the 1970 Revised Ordinances), as amended.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- AVAILABLE FOR RENT TO TENANT
- Fit for habitation as defined by the Housing Inspection Code and occupied or unoccupied and offered for rent.
- For the purposes of this chapter shall mean any building, structure or trailer park containing two or more residential rental units; exempted from this chapter are owner-occupied two-family houses.
- Exempt from this chapter are motels, hotels and similar-type buildings in which up to 1/3 of the occupied floor space is commercial and housing units of two units or less in which the owner of the premises resides; housing units, newly constructed and rented for the first time are exempted, and the initial rent may be determined by the landlord. All subsequent rents will be subject to the provisions of this chapter.
- HOUSING SPACE
- Includes that portion of a dwelling, rented or offered for rent for living and dwelling purposes, together with all privileges, services, furnishings, furniture, equipment, facilities and improvements connected with the use or occupancy of such portion of the property.
The Rent Leveling Board shall consist of two landlord representatives, two tenant representatives and one resident homeowner appointed by the Mayor with consent of the Borough Council, except for the resident homeowner, who is to be appointed by the Mayor in his sole discretion. In addition to the five regular members, there shall be three alternate members of the Rent Leveling Board (one tenant, one homeowner and one landlord). Said alternates shall be appointed in the same manner as the regular members of the Rent Leveling Board and shall have voting powers upon the absence of a regular member for the category to which they are appointed as alternate. The Chairman of the Rent Leveling Board shall be the homeowner member of the Board.
The term of office, as designated by the Mayor, with consent of the Borough Council, for the members of the Rent Leveling Board shall be for a period of three years, ending on December 31, or until a successor is appointed and qualified. Terms of office for all new Board members shall be staggered. On the first Rent Leveling Board, two members shall serve for three years, two members shall serve for two years and one member shall serve for a one-year term. The members shall serve until their successors are appointed and have qualified for the office. The interim between the appointment of the members of the first Board and the next January shall be in addition to the aforesaid term of office.
When a member, without being excused by a majority of the authorized members, fails to attend and participate at meetings for a period of eight consecutive weeks or for four consecutive regular meetings, whichever shall be of longer duration, at the conclusion of such period, upon written notification to the Mayor and Council, the Rent Leveling Board shall remove said member. The Board may refuse to excuse an absence only with respect to those failures to attend and participate which are not due to legitimate illness.
The Rent Leveling Board 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:
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 and effect 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 Borough Clerk.
To supply information and assistance to landlords and tenants to help them comply with the provisions of this chapter.
To hold hearings and adjudicate applications from landlords for additional rental as determined by § 322-6 of this chapter and to hold hearings and adjudicate complaints by tenants concerning violations of rental provisions of this chapter. The Rent Leveling Board shall give reasonable opportunity to be heard both to landlord and tenant before making any determination in this Subsection D(3).
To review charges of tenant harassment.
Both the landlord and the tenant may appeal the findings of the Rent Leveling Board to the Mayor and Council. Any appeal to the governing body must be done within 20 days from the date of the said determination and request a hearing.
[Amended 10-18-2016 by Ord. No. 1506]
No landlord shall increase the rental of any housing space more than once in a twelve-month period, except for as provided in § 322-4 hereof. The maximum increase for a twelve-month period shall be 1.5% of the current rent or the percentage increase of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), based upon an average of the previous 12 months, whichever is greater, for all dwelling units covered by Chapter 322 of the Revised Ordinances of the Borough of Dumont. The CPI shall be established and published as the average of the previous 12 months of the CPI as is determined by the United States Department of Labor Statistics for the New York, New York-northeastern New Jersey area, or its successor. The twelve-month increase shall not exceed 5% in its entirety.
Any landlord seeking an increase in rent shall notify the tenant of the rent increase and also notify the tenant of the calculations involved in computing the increase. Copies of said notices are to be served upon the tenant at least 60 days prior to the expiration of a periodic lease or, if on a month-to-month tenancy, 60 days prior to the date on which the landlord seeks the rental increase to be effective. All landlords shall also forward a copy of notices of any and all increases to the Rent Leveling Board.
A tenant shall have the obligation and responsibility of advising his landlord, at least 30 days prior to the expiration of a periodic lease or a month-to-month tenancy, of his or her intention not to renew the lease or tenancy contract.
Notwithstanding any limitations upon permissible rent increases under any other provision of this chapter, upon the voluntary, uncoerced vacation of any housing space regulated by this chapter, the landlord may increase the rent for such housing space up to the fair market value. "Fair market value" shall be defined as an estimate of the market value of a property based on what a knowledgeable, willing and unpressured buyer would likely pay for similarly situated units in the near vicinity and surrounding area. There shall be only one such increase per housing space in any twelve-month period. When the housing space is re-rented, it shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter.
To qualify for such increase, the landlord shall first file with the Rent Leveling Board a written statement, signed by the vacating tenant, certifying to the Board that vacation of the housing space was voluntary and not the result of any harassment, coercion or pressure by the landlord. Such certification shall not be required if:
The rental increase does not exceed the total of all permissible increases authorized by other provisions of this chapter;
The tenant has moved without notice to the landlord;
The housing space has been vacated pursuant to court order; or
The tenant has refused to sign such certification, in which case the landlord shall file a statement with the Board setting forth the circumstances under which the tenant vacated the housing space.
Upon vacation of any housing space hereafter, the landlord shall file a statement with the Rent Leveling Board, certifying to the Board:
The apartment and building numbers of such housing space.
The rent paid by the vacating tenant.
The maximum rent increase which would be permissible under the provisions of this chapter.
The number of days such apartment remains vacant.
The rent agreed to by the new tenant for such apartment.
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.
The name and forwarding addresses, if known, of the vacating tenant.
In the event that a landlord cannot meet his mortgage payments and maintenance costs, or he cannot realize a reasonable profit from his investment in his property, he may appeal to the Rent Leveling Board for increased rental. The Board may grant the landlord a hardship rent increase to meet these payments. However, the Board will not consider a hardship application unless the applying landlord has been the owner of the property in question for at least one year.
Prior to granting any increase, the Rent Leveling Board shall require complete financial disclosure, including statements of income and expenses and current cash flow statements and any other evidence deemed necessary for the Board to render a decision in connection with all such applications, and, prior to the granting of any increases, the Rent Leveling Board shall give at least 10 days' notice of public hearing thereon.
During the term of this chapter, the landlord shall maintain the same standards of service, maintenance, furniture, furnishings or equipment in the building complex as s/he provided or was required to do by law or lease at the date the lease or tenancy was entered into.
A tenant shall be entitled to an application for a decrease in rent when the property owner performs any construction in the residential building which results in there being a separate apartment unit meter and billing for any utility service, including but not limited to heat, hot water, water and sewerage. The Rent Leveling Board shall prepare the necessary forms and regulations to implement this section.
Determinations in this section shall be made by the Rent Leveling Board. The Rent Leveling Board shall allow a reduction in rent which reduces the tenant's rent by the amount of the average monthly tenant's utility charge which was previously provided as a common utility charge for the entire building.
This chapter contains no additional provision dealing with utilities.
If a tenant believes that his/her landlord is in violation of the provisions of this chapter, s/he may complete a tenant complaint form, which may be obtained from the Borough Clerk's office, during normal business hours, or on the Borough website at www.dumontnj.gov. The complaint form shall be filled out in its entirety and submitted, along with a nominal processing fee of $5, to the Dumont Borough Clerk's Office, Attn: Rent Leveling Board, 50 Washington Avenue, Dumont, New Jersey. The tenant shall serve his/her landlord with the completed complaint form, via certified mail, and the tenant shall retain proof of service receipt(s).
Upon receipt of the complaint form, the Board shall review the complaint form, and the matter shall be scheduled for a hearing. The Board shall notify the parties of a briefing schedule, pursuant to which the landlord may submit an objection, and pursuant to which the tenant may submit a further reply. Upon submission of written statements by the tenant and landlord, the Board shall hold an impartial hearing to determine the merits of the complaint form. Unless the parties enter into a settlement agreement, the Board will issue a written decision granting or denying the requested relief in the complaint form.
If no objection is filed or if the tenant does not request a hearing and the Board determines that a decision can be rendered without testimony, the complaint form will be decided administratively, without a hearing.
A violation of this chapter is a municipal ordinance violation and is punishable by a fine, possible jail time or community service.
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 fact, shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, and/or community service for a period not to exceed 60 days, and/or imprisonment for a period not to exceed 30 days.
The provisions of this chapter shall be enforced by the Code Official or other competent official of the Borough of Dumont Building Department. Said official shall issue summons(es) and notice(s) of violations in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.
In addition, treble damages may be sought in a court of competent jurisdiction. Such penalty and/or damages shall be computed on the basis of a separate violation as to each leasehold. In addition to the rights conferred on a tenant herein, a tenant may seek redress against a landlord pursuant to the provisions of the Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 et seq., if a landlord shall overcharge rent. The Consumer Fraud Act shall act as an enforcement mechanism to an individual tenant who may seek redress by an award of reasonable attorneys' fees and treble damages for a successful suit against a landlord for overcharging of rent as mandated by said Act.
This chapter, being necessary for the welfare of the Borough and its inhabitants, shall be liberally construed to effectuate the purposes thereof. The provisions of this chapter are intended to provide an equitable basis for the establishment of rents, taking into consideration, taxes, major capital improvements, hardships and other pertinent factors. The general standards of this chapter are intended to have flexibility and are not so specified as to eliminate the exercise of discretion on the part of the Rent Leveling Board.