Turner Bill To Extend ‘Animal House’ Provisions Passes Senate Panel

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would allow all municipalities to require landlords of ‘animal houses’ to post bonds passed the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee today.

“These ‘animal houses’ are a drain on our communities and disrupt the lives of those living in the neighborhood,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “Far too often local police officers must repeatedly break up college parties at these properties and are unnecessarily pulled away from their primary job of protecting the community.”

Senator Turner continued, “By requiring landlords to post bonds on properties that have historically been disruptive to the community, we’re holding them accountable and forcing them to take responsibility for keeping their tenants in check.”

Senator Turner’s bill, S-869, would expand the “1993 Animal House Law” 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. The bond would 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.

Senator Turner pointed out that New Jersey’s shore towns have been able to require these bonds since the original law was passed.

“Requiring bonds has been a proven method in shore communities for reducing disruptions coming from rentals. Now it will be an option in all communities, especially those that are home to our colleges and universities,” explained Senator Turner.

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. Rowdy off-campus living quarters of some college students are referred to as ‘animal houses’ after the slovenly fraternity in the movie of the same name. Under current law such measures to curb ‘animal houses’ can only be taken in municipalities located in counties of the fifth or sixth class such as New Jersey’s Shore towns. The “Animal House Law,” adopted in 1993 was created to offer year-round residents of Shore communities some relief from seasonal renters who leave the communities once Labor Day passes.

Senator Turner also noted that “animal houses” are the exception and not the rule.

“Unfortunately, some students completely disregard the interest of the neighborhoods in which they spend their college years,” said Senator Turner. “They don’t realize that college towns are home to established, vibrant communities who dont want to be kept awake until all hours every night because of college parties.”

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.

“This is truly a problem everywhere in New Jersey, and we need comprehensive protections for all of our municipalities. We need to say ‘No more!’ to absentee landlords who don’t properly screen their tenants or take action to discipline rowdy renters,” added Senator Turner.

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 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 passed by a vote of 5-0 and now goes to the full Senate for their consideration.

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