On November 8 Hoboken residents will have the opportunity to vote on Ordinance Z-88, an amendment to Hoboken’s rent control law that our entire city council stated, on the record, needed to be changed immediately due to real concerns surrounding the new provisions. Those concerns were so great that our elected leaders went so far as to introduce an amendment to the ordinance in an attempt to correct some of the most egregious aspects of Ordinance Z-88 at the very next council meeting.
At the March 2nd meeting at which Ordinance Z-88 was up for second reading , Councilman Mello expressed strong concerns with Z-88 stating, ‘there’s never enough time to do it right; but there is always enough time to do it again.’ Councilman Mello was right. The path to this seriously flawed ordinance began at the request of three or four landlords that attended a city council meeting in June of 2009. At that meeting, the city council established a subcommittee to examine the landlords’ claims of alleged misadministration of our RC ordinance. Unfortunately, instead of researching those claims to determine which, if any, were valid and taking steps to address them, the subcommittee asked the Rent Leveling Officer what things landlords complained about coming up with a list of topics based on general complaints. The resulting Ordinance does not address alleged misadministration; instead it weakens our existing, important tenant protections.
For example, Z-88 grants equitable authority to the rent leveling board, giving them the power to ignore anything and everything in the ordinance if they feel doing so is ‘fair.’ Having such a blanket provision in our rent control ordinance could nullify every tenant protection included therein. Another problematic change surrounds required vacancy decontrol forms which, under the current law, must be timely filed by landlords when a tenant voluntarily vacates in turn allowing a rent increase of 25 percent (once every three years) for the next tenant. Under Z-88, if one or more vacancy decontrol forms are missing from a file, all the landlord needs do is certify, without proof that vacating tenants left voluntarily to secure one or more 25 percent increases. This seemingly innocuous change could falsely raise the legal rent on any apartment in Hoboken by hundreds of dollars putting an existing tenant at risk of being harassed out of their home. This is particularly dangerous in today’s tight rental market.
Supporters of rent protections participated in all of the subcommittee meetings, agreeing to more than one major change to the existing ordinance. As an example, supporters of rent control agreed that a statute of limitations, with proper notification, would be acceptable. We also submitted multiple suggestions to assist the city address claims of alleged misadministration. None of our suggestions were accepted.
If the citizens of Hoboken vote yes and reject ordinance Z-88 on November 8, the city council will have an opportunity to correct what they themselves acknowledged was not a good law.
On November 8 please vote yes to reject Ordinance Z-88.