Rent control is coming to Neptune if an ordinance introduced by the Township Committee last week is adopted at a public hearing on Aug. 12.
Other municipalities in Monmouth County with similar ordinances are Eatontown and Red Bank.
The ordinance is being considered in the wake of complaints from residents living at the Winding Ridge townhouse complex about onerous rent increases. The privately-owned complex consists of 99 two- and three-bedroom affordable townhouse apartments and rents are being raised by several hundred dollars, or from $1,400 to $1,800 a unit for some.
Winding Ridge residents recently complained to the governing body about the increases, saying that many residents could not afford the increases and may be displaced. In turn, the Township Committee said it would look into a rent control ordinance – and the result was introduced last week.
“This is in response to the Winding Ridge and other apartment complexes that recently had large rent increases. It made us look at where we are regarding rental housing prices in Neptune,” Committeeman Randy Bishop said.
Bishop said he hopes the township can keep rental units affordable and give tenants, not only protective rent control, but the ability to come forward to a board pertaining to issues with their units.
The ordinance, which is drafted using other similar rent controls efforts approved by the state Supreme Court as constitutional, was unanimously introduced by the governing body last week. It creates a five-member rent control, protective tenancy, and a rent-leveling board appointed by the governing body.
“Large portions of the township live in apartment complexes and mobile home parks and are in dire need of protection as tenants, especially in the areas of rent increases and affordable housing,” the ordinance states.
Township Attorney Gene Anthony said the control measures would go into effect the day the ordinance is adopted.
“It defines what is subject to rent control, which is mostly multiple dwelling complexes with three or more units and mobile home parks. It doesn’t include commercial rentals; transitory rentals, like motel, hotels; and two-family homes,” he said.
Anthony said the ordinance allows a landlord to charge whatever rent the market will bear when a tenant moves in. But once the tenant is there after one year, the unit is subject to rent control, which means rent cannot be increased greater than the consumer price index for the four months prior to end of the tenant’s lease.
“The current consumer price index is now one or two percent a year,” he said.
In order to enforce the measure, the ordinance creates a rent-leveling board, of five members and two alternates.
“They are in charge of enforcing the regulations,” he said.
For example, if a landlord increases rents greater than the amount allowed in the ordinance, the board can prohibit the increase and require that a tenant can get a credit for any amounts paid in excess of the approved rent increase.
Under the ordinance, the landlord can only get more rent than the consumer price index for two reasons: capital improvements or hardship.
“But the landlord has to go before the board to get approval for any of these two conditions,” Anthony said.
The board can also initiate rent refunds if it can be proved that a landlord reduces services.
“The tenant can make application for a rent reduction rent for these reduced services,” he said.
Anthony said the township’s code enforcement and housing authority can issue violation notices for not complying with the ordinance.
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