TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would remove an exemption in local rent control to protect senior tenants was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 22-16.
“New Jersey has an extremely high cost of living, and it’s difficult for renters on fixed incomes to get by,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Recognizing that many tenants are one financial crisis away from eviction, municipalities throughout the State have adopted rent control as a way to keep their communities affordable. However, there’s a loophole in the law regulating local rent control, and we need to close this loophole to protect those seniors who pay their rent on time, but might not be able to withstand massive increases.”
The bill, S-630, 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 a rent increase of 17.9%, creating a financial hardship for many tenants on fixed incomes.
“Seniors shouldn’t be forced to spend their golden years wondering if they’ll be able to afford next month’s rent,” said Senator Vitale. “However, for many people living with the without the protection of rent control, that scenario is a reality. Property managers cannot be allowed to use bait-and-switch tactics of offering low rental rates to seniors in their first year, and then hiking the rent a year or two after the tenant moves in.
“This bill would clarify that when it comes to senior tenants, predictable and fair rent increases are the law of the land,” added Senator Vitale.
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.