Vitale Bill To Protect Senior Tenants Advances

Measure Would Extend Local Rent Control Protections to Renters Over Age of 55

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would remove an exemption in local rent control ordinances in order to protect senior tenants was approved by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee today by a vote of 3-2.

“New Jersey has an extraordinarily high cost of living, and it’s difficult for renters – particularly those on fixed incomes – to make ends meet,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “In an effort to ensure fairness and predictability for New Jersey renters, municipalities throughout the State have adopted rent control to keep their communities affordable. However, the existing law governing rent control ordinances carves out an exemption for dwellings built after 1987, and folks living in senior rental communities are left without the vital and necessary protections afforded under rent control.”

The bill, S-805, would clarify the Legislature’s intent in regards to a statute which provides an exemption from local rent control for newly constructed multiple dwellings. Under the bill, multiple dwellings which cater to tenants aged 55 and older would not be able to claim the exemption for newly-constructed multiple unit dwellings from local rent control rules. Senator Vitale noted that New Jersey does not have Statewide rent control, but regulates how municipalities can impose their own rent control through local ordinance.

Senator Vitale added that this bill is in response to concerns from seniors living in the age-restricted community of Woodbridge Hills in his district. Under the current exemption, 480 senior households have experienced significant rent increases over the last few years, creating a financial hardship for many tenants on fixed incomes.

When the State approved and later clarified the exemption from rent control for new construction, the legislative statements attached to the reform law passed in 1999 noted that it was to apply only to non-senior citizen developments. However, the law itself, and subsequent regulation, have been silent on this issue.

“Seniors shouldn’t be forced to spend their retirement years wondering if they’ll have enough money to afford next month’s rent hike,” said Senator Vitale. “For people living without the protection of rent control, this scenario is a reality. This bill would clarify the Legislature’s intent when it approved amendments to the State’s law governing local rent control in the 1980s, and would make sure that fair, honest and predictable rent increases for senior tenants are the law of the land.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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