NJ Supreme Court decides issue related to Hoboken rent control referendum and citizens' right to collect legal fees
Jul 31, 2014 | 1603 views | 2 2 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HOBOKEN -- The state Supreme Court issued a decision on Thursday related to a rent control issue in Hoboken. It isn't related to whether rent control stays or goes, but relates to a legal challenge to changes that were made by the City Council two years ago and voted on by the public in a referendum.

Local activist Cheryl Fallick said the decision does not change the existing law, but sets a precedent for local citizen groups.

Rent control, which limits increases on buildings built before 1987, has long been the subject of a tug-of-war in Hoboken between local tenant activists and landlords/taxpayers' associations.

According to a press release from the tenant side:

"Today the Hoboken Fair Housing Association (HFHA) received the Supreme Court’s ruling on two long-standing issues affecting Hoboken’s voters’ rights: 1) whether the Clerk of the City of Hoboken violated the referendum provisions of the Faulkner Act by refusing to file a petition and, if so, 2) whether the City Clerk actions also violated the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, which would require the City of Hoboken to pay the attorneys’ fees necessary for the COP to defend the Citizens’ democratic rights.

This case dates back to 2011 when the Hoboken City Council passed Ordinance Z-88 which weakened tenant protections including limiting the ability for tenants in rent controlled apartments to seek remedies for rent overcharges. At that time five members of the HFHA formed a COP to bring a referendum challenge to that Ordinance. Based on incorrect information provided by Hudson County, the submitted petition contained fewer signatures than the 15 percent of the number of voters voting in the last NJ General Assembly election which are required to get the referendum on the ballot. Because of this, the Clerk attempted to ‘unfile’ the petition and refused to provide the COP an explanation of the petition’s insufficiency and an additional 10 days for petitioners to collect signatures to cure the insufficiency, as is also required by State Law.

"What followed was a tangled path of motions and appeals in the New Jersey court system ...While the Appellate Division then upheld the lower court’s decision that forced the City of Hoboken to put the referendum on the ballot, they reversed the lower court ruling that the COP’s civil rights were violated. Today the Supreme Court, by a 6-0 vote, affirmed the Appellate Court’s ruling that the referendum must go on the ballot but by a 4-2 vote, reversed the appellate ruling concerning the violation of the COP’s civil rights thereby establishing that those rights were violated.

"[Attorney] Renee Steinhagen stated: 'This decision is a strong endorsement of the rights of Citizens of New Jersey to hold local government officials accountable. By permitting attorney fees, it also gives Citizens the tools to fight back when government decision-makers hijack the referendum process and unlawfully deprive private Citizens of their referendum rights.' ”
The ruling is linked here , so click to read.

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TommyLover
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August 01, 2014
Thank you for posting the full statement from the citizen's group that brought, and won, this case. This is an important win for lovers of democracy everywhere.

However, while this case was brought by a tenant activist group, it has NOTHING to do with rent control. It has to do with the fact that the City Clerk's office did everything they could to prevent a citizen's group from filing a completely legal petition. This could have been about anything - charter schools, development, parades. Of course, whether the City Clerk's office would go to such great lengths to prevent those filings is a question one could ask. But thankfully, the state saw the City Clerk's office's actions for what they were - a violation of a group of residents civil right's.

And I object to the obvious bias revealed in this report. The first sentence reads " The state Supreme Court issued a decision on Thursday related to a rent control issue in Hoboken." As I said, and anyone who wants to read the decision can see for themselves, this verdict had NOTHING TO DO WITH RENT CONTROL. It had to do with a violation of the Faulkner Act.

Lovers of democracy can read the full decision here:

http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/supreme/A131413TumpsonvFarina.pdf

Way to stoke the class war, Reporter. But not very subtle.

HobRebeccaL
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July 31, 2014
Tenants are the taxpayers, the taxes for their units are usually passed on to them by the landlords. As many of the landlords don't live in Hoboken and they pass the taxes from their rental units on to the the tenants many of them are not. And many individual homeowners side with the tenants. So saying that taxpayers are on the other side from tenants is grossly misleading.