While lots of initiatives designed to help tenants have been enacted since the coronavirus pandemic began, Hudson county’s largest city recently approved legislation that will outlaw rent increases at many residential properties.
Ordinance 20-033 got introduced late last month by Ward E Councilman James Solomon and was passed unanimously by the city council during their May 6 meeting. The regulation enacts a temporary rent freeze at all rent-controlled apartments and at all units in one-to-four family buildings that are not owner-occupied.
The language of the ordinance notes that “housing security and stability are important to public health, particularly as homelessness can increase vulnerability to COVID-19.” It states that evictions of residents for non-payment of rent can increase the risk of contracting COVID-19, “which in turn increases the risks to the rest of society and endangers public health.”
The ordinance imposes the freeze as of March 15 and it will last until August 1 “or the expiration of the public health emergency, whichever is later.” The new rules also prohibit landlords from collecting any late payment penalty as a result of the current public health emergency as declared by the Governor.
Not everyone is thrilled with the news. Per a story from the Hudson Reporter, Ron Simoncini of the Jersey City Property Owners Association claims that the measure is a “superficial gesture” that “shouldn’t be made during a pandemic.”
“Government shouldn’t be overreacting to short-term circumstances to pass laws that effectively abridge property rights, and are likely unconstitutional, when relief is needed throughout the market,” he told the outlet.
Simoncini is also the Executive Director of the Montclair Property Owners Association, who are currently mounting a legal challenge to that town’s newly-passed rent control regulations. The group recently won an injunction to delay Montclair’s implementation of that law and has made it clear they intend to submit a petition looking to force a voter referendum on the issue.
The move to freeze rents at some apartments in Jersey City comes just weeks after an Executive Order from the Governor allowed tenants to use security deposits to pay their rents. A separate $100 million COVID-19 rental assistance bill will be voted on by the State Assembly on May 14.