Turner ‘Animal House’ Legislation Approved In Assembly

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner which would extend New Jersey’s “Animal House” law to allow municipalities to request that landlords post a bond in order to cover expenses related to the bad behavior of their tenants was approved by the Assembly today by a vote of 47-28.

“At many institutions of higher education in New Jersey and around the country, most college students are studying hard in order to secure for themselves a promising future,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “However, some college students continue to give the entire population a bad name by engaging in the sort of bad behavior which is more in-line with raucous comedy films, rather than real life. These ‘animal house’ students damage community property, create neighborhood mischief, participate and encourage dangerous binge drinking, and divert police resources away from other emergencies, and landlords need to step up to protect their communities from the effects of such behavior.”

Senator Turner’s bill, S 869, would expand the “1993 Animal House Law” which applied to Jersey Shore communities to allow municipal governing bodies statewide to adopt ordinances which would require the landlords of properties where tenants have been repeatedly convicted of disorderly, indecent, tumultuous or riotous conduct to post a bond or other security to compensate municipalities for law enforcement and prosecution expenses. The bond would also be used to compensate for any future damage or expense the municipality or its residents suffer from the repetition of such conduct by tenants in the future, according to the bill.

“For rental properties in which residents have a history of disorderly, disrespectful conduct to the community, landlords must reimburse the municipality for the inconvenience of their tenants’ bad behavior,” said Senator Turner. “It shouldn’t matter whether the rental property in question is at the Jersey Shore or along the Delaware River. If you’re a landlord and you’re allowing dangerous and disruptive behavior to take place on your property, you should be held responsible by your neighbors and the entire community affected.”

The genesis of the bill is a litany of complaints from various residents about college renters regarding late night parties, loud noise, trash, an excessive number of parked cars and absentee landlords.

Senator Turner noted that “animal houses” are the exception and not the rule, adding that many college students play by the rules, and contribute to their community, rather than detract from it.

“A vast majority of college students are more interested in academics than excessive partying,” said Senator Turner. “However, a few bad seeds continue to sow discontent between colleges and college towns in which they’re located. By requiring landlords to post bonds to cover the potential cost of damage and increased law enforcement presence caused by ‘animal house’ rental properties, we can hopefully allow institutions of higher education and their host communities to have a better working relationship for all residents.”

According to Senator Turner, the problems caused by rowdy tenants and absentee landlords is not only limited to college towns and shore communities, but has also grown in the State’s urban communities.

Senator Turner also noted that the Ewing Township Council has passed ordinances in past years in an effort to regulate drinking and rental inspections, and officials have worked more closely with college administrators at The College of New Jersey and Rider University in recent years to educate students about their responsibilities as tenants. However, the township reports that problems have persisted along with the complaints.

The bill now heads back to the Senate for consideration of Assembly amendments, before it goes to the Governor to be signed into law.

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