Rent control adjustment needs more adjusting to be fair

10/31/2005

Rent control adjustment needs more adjusting to be fair Citizens of Hoboken:

On October 19th the City Council passed an amendment to Hoboken's Rent Control law which allows landlords to cheat tenants and which may result in hundreds of tenants losing their homes.

The amendment requires a landlord to give each tenant a "Full Disclosure Statement" (FDS) "advising the tenant that the City has adopted a Rent Control ordinance" and containing a "notification of the two-year period of limitations for filing an application for a rent rebate". The amendment states that if this FDS is given to the tenant, and if the tenant fails to "request a legal rent calculation within two years", then the tenant will not be able to get back any of the rent that he was illegally overcharged and paid. Missing from the FDS is the minimum information needed to motivate a tenant to act: a Rent Control Board certified statement of the legal rent. Any new tenant, when given this bogus "disclosure", will believe that his landlord is charging a legal rent, and will have no motivation to apply for a legal rent calculation. Two years later, he is cheated out of two years of rent overpayment.

The amendment also says that "Any existing tenant, duly served with the full Disclosure Statement shall be entitled to no more than a two (2) year rebate of overpaid rents".

Thus, if a tenant was charged an illegally high rent for 20 years, he can only get back 2 years of the illegal overpayment.

This amendment thus rewards a landlord for violating the law, allowing him to cheat a tenant out of possibly thousands of dollars. (Conversely, law-abiding landlords are penalized -- by obeying the law, they have missed out on thousands in ill-gotten, and now legalized, gains.)

Why would the Mayor and Council encourage and reward such lawbreaking and allow so many of their tenant constituents to be so cheated? Note that the Mayor and a majority of the Councilpersons voting for amendment are (or have close family members who are) Hoboken landlords.

This amendment goes far beyond the legalized cheating of tenants. It encourages landlords to evict their current tenants who pay legal rents. Prior to this amendment, landlords had no economic motivation to evict such tenants since the next tenant would also pay a legal rent.

This amendment creates the motivation: if the new tenant pays an illegal rent for two years, the landlord can keep the illegal overpayment.

Cheating tenants and providing an incentive to evict them are two reasons why we cannot allow this amendment to become law. We are therefore now circulating a referendum protest petition which, if submitted to the City Clerk with at least 720 signatures by November 8th, will stop the amendment from going into effect and force the Mayor and Council to either repeal it or put it on the ballot for a referendum vote.

We are circulating the referendum petition until November 6th, so please sign it to stop this dangerous Rent Control amendment from becoming law. Contact me at 201-656-7774 or symbitar@aol.com if you have questions or want to participate.

Daniel Tumpson, for the Committee of the Petitioners


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